Future Meetings in 2017

Contact us to join our future meetings: bristolbookclub@hotmail.co.uk

  1. August 16 (Bishopston Venue) Death In Venice And Other Stories – Thomas Mann we shall be be fixing new dates
  2. September 19th Falconer by John Cheever (including vote for best book of the year) (Bishopston Venue)
  3. October The Sins of Jack Saul – The True Story of Dublin Jack and The Cleveland Street Scandal by Glenn Chandler
  4. November Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo

We have given birth or cloned ourselves – there is now a Gay Men’s book group in Bath. It is run by one of our long-standing members so it should be kosher

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About us

The group started off about ten years ago and has members from a mixture of ages and backgrounds. The turnout varies between six and fourteen people, though we have about forty people on  the list of members.  The books we read vary from ‘light’ to ‘heavy’, usually written either by or about gay men. Anyone is free to choose a book but they don’t necessarily have to introduce it themselves. Discussions are quite lively: we have one member (me) who loves virtually every book fairly uncritically and one who virtually savages every book (but he is quite gentle really!). We meet monthly, usually Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, at 7.30 for 8 in a member’s flat  on Bristol’s harbourside or at two members’ house in Birshopston and chat over a glass of wine, beer or cup of coffee. Some people turn up to every meeting; others choose which meetings to attend according to whichever book is being discussed at any given time. Either is fine Ffi: bristolbookclub@hotmail.co.uk

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My Beautiful Laundrette by Hanif Kureishi

We liked the feel-good, positive factor, some of us remembering the 1980s as a very bleak decade.

Some people belong nowhere and search for identity – the gay person as much as someone of an ethnic minority.

This film received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay in 1984. This was the first British film to openly depict a gay romance.

It is set in London during the Thatcher era and focuses on Omar, a young Pakistani man living in London, and his reunion and eventual romance with his old friend, a named Johnny. The two become the caretakers and business managers of a launderette originally owned by Omar’s uncle Nasser.

The plot addresses several issues of the time, including homosexuality and racism, depicted within the social and economic climate of Thatcherism. Also alienation, exclusion, conflict and and sense of belonging.

Race: Omar’s achievements come despite his minority ethnic status in 1980s British society, striking a chord with the neoliberal ideal expressed by his uncle, Nasser, who states there’s “no such thing as race in the new enterprise society.” Yet the beating which Johnny, Omar and his Uncle Salim face at the hands of white nationalists suggests otherwise. The reality of Thatcherism, far from heralding the erasure of racial distinctions, was that of escalating racist violence, provoked by increasing economic inequality and symbolic legislation.

Throughout the film, the fascists reappear. In one scene before their attack, where they stand, armed and waiting, around the laundrette. Never assume that xenophobic nationalism will forever remain on the fringe.

At the climax, one of the fascists takes a metal bin and hurls it into Omar’s laundrette window. Though they had previously found employment there, it was of a menial nature, presumably low paid, and failed to mitigate their repulsion at working for a Pakistani who, as one of them articulates, “came over here to work for us.”

Sex: British Asians were popularly regarded as dowdy, puritanical and family-focussed rather than hedonistic. Yet here, Omar has a relationship with someone who’s not his fiancée, with a man rather than a woman, and with a poorly educated skinhead of the kind many immigrants would have feared and despised in equal measure. This same-sex relationship is depicted explicitly – at a time when much of the conservative establishment decried homosexuality in the name of Victorian values, and when the popular press used the AIDS epidemic as an excuse to castigate gay people. Though occasionally fraught, the leads’ romance is mostly fun, certainly not tragic.

Contrasts: The movie is not concerned with plot, but with giving us a feeling for the society its characters inhabit. Modern Britain is a study in contrasts, between rich and poor, between upper and lower classes, between native British and the various immigrant groups — some of which, such as the Pakistanis, have started to prosper. To this mixture, the movie adds the conflict between straight and gay.

A critique of postcolonial Britain is achieved through Kureishi’s battery of conflicts—between whites and Asians, between whites and whites, between the Asian and African diasporas, between Asian brother and brother, between Asian parents and their adult children, between men and women. The fact that Omar and Johnny’s sexual relationship is not a source of social conflict, unlike that of Nasser and Rachel, is significant. It’s a masterful stroke of gay-straight taboo reversal that proposes that behaviour conventional society has historically vilified may be the most likely to promote harmony.

The two men rekindle their teenage relationship when they are alone together in the laundrette. It is illustrative of how they escaped the ethical and moral boundaries that both society and Omar’s family had imposed on them. When they are left alone in the laundrette, they are able to surpass Omar’s family’s cultural expectation of a heterosexual arranged marriage between Omar and Tania. Similarly, Johnny is able to detach himself from his racist group of resentful white working class peers and form a relationship with the supposed “other”

Newly employed by Omar, he acquires a sense of self-worth and—if not quite a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis—swaps his too-long-lived-in tribal uniform for a brighter, cleaner look. Observed by Omar in the moments before the laundrette’s opening, he mounts the table where customers will fold their spin-dried clothes and stands there like an Adonis, the brief pose showing that the slumped, disconsolate figure he was at the start of the film has regenerated himself. He has also become the film’s moral centre, for he cautions Omar, who has “big plans” for taking over more laundrettes, not to become greedy. The film shares Hussein’s belief that, for the children of immigrants, education is the key to social enlightenment and integration.

Early images of Johnny reveal that he is a youth in transition—one who rejects the system crushing his generation by rejecting the street violence that results indirectly from Conservative policies. Newly employed by Omar, he acquires a sense of self-worth and—if not quite a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis—swaps his too-long-lived-in tribal uniform for a brighter, cleaner look. Observed by Omar in the moments before the laundrette’s opening, he mounts the table where customers will fold their spin-dried clothes and stands there like an Adonis, the brief pose showing that the slumped, disconsolate figure he was at the start of the film has regenerated himself. He has also become the film’s moral centre, for he cautions Omar, who has “big plans” for taking over more laundrettes, not to become greedy. The film shares Hussein’s belief that, for the children of immigrants, education is the key to social enlightenment and integration.

The disgruntled Tania (Rita Wolf), Nasser’s daughter, is the pivotal female character. Kureishi introduces her as the Ali family conscience and scold, who despises her father for cheating on her mother, Bilquis (Charu Bala Chokshi). She’s also a disruptive comic force. She flashes her breasts at Omar to distract him from listening to her father smugly hold forth to his well-heeled cronies in his den. In a temper, she upends on Bilquis’s lap the witch’s potion she’s concocting to poison Rachel. “I’d rather drink my own urine,” she tells Nasser when he presses her and Omar to get married. Tania is not about to become a submissive Pakistani wife like Bilquis, so she leaves home. When last seen, she is standing on a train station platform. A touch of magical realism removes her from patriarchal control.

The laundrette’s “Powders” neon sign, which makes its exterior resemble that of a small cinema. The interior is deep, as are those of many repertory theatres, and a “widescreen” window separates the washing, drying, and folding area (the space where the “action” takes place) from the back office (a darkened space from which the action can be viewed). Looking at—and through—the window, Omar admires Johnny doing his chores and standing on the table. As Johnny and Omar have sex in the back room before the opening, they become an audience watching Rachel and Nasser dancing in the front. The laundrette’s paying customers contribute to the notion of its being an emporium in which secrets are revealed, stories evolve, and events come to a head. This visual self-consciousness extends beyond the laundrette: at home or in cars, the characters frequently look at other characters through windows or at their own reflections. It’s a hall of mirrors for existential self-interrogation that demands the audience enter in.

The laundrette works as some kind of melting pot: a place where race, gender, and sexuality do not play a role, and where one has the opportunity to reinvent himself.

They chose blue to paint the facade: on the one hand this is the colour of hope, on the other hand, the fact they have chosen a pale version might not only underline their sexuality, but also the fact that there is still a long way to go in terms of equality and acceptance – especially considering that this peaceful atmosphere is only found inside the building. Outside it, there is still a multiethnic working-class structure which is completely fragmented, each element fighting against the others.

This simple laundrette in a shabby neighbourhood represents the rise, fall, and return to former ideals in one everyday place. It seems like the characters have literally washed their hands clean in the end, or, as Oliva describes, “the intelligent metaphor of the laundry seen as a means of cleaning up the dirt of filthy society”.

At the end, Britain’s rich are still getting richer and its poor are still getting poorer. The beautiful laundrette has been trashed, Nasser and Rachel have parted, and Tania has evaporated. Only Omar and Johnny’s unity is hopeful—they’re left flicking water at each other in a final positive image, the cares of the day forgotten with its soapsuds.

p. 85 Nasser thinks of becoming a sadhu – isn’t that Hindu and he’s a muslim?

Omar’s father and uncle do, as it seems, represent the two stages of the laundrette: the hardship and wasted potential

The uncle, Nasser, symbolizes the self-made man who took advantage of the situation and managed to establish a flourishing business, by “squeezing the tits of the system”. He is not entirely fond of Britain, but is, however, aware of the new possibilities that he knows how to use for himself in the “damn country which we hate and love.”

Omar’s father takes a rather different approach, having given up on finding a job in his original profession as a journalist, and now lives on welfare, which he hates so much. Having a Pakistani father and a white, British mother, who committed suicide, Omar’s mixed identity is determined from birth. Not only is he mixed in terms of race, but he is also confronted with two conflicting male role models and two very different cultures. As Pascual further states, the trains that pass outside the family’s window might symbolise the fluidity of Omar’s hybrid identity’

When the launderette has its grand opening, he shows up after everyone else has already left. For the left-wing socialist, who spends all his time in their dark apartment, this might be a moment of both: pride and sadness. One the one hand, he might be full of joy, seeing how well his son has adapted to life in Britain and how he has managed to build up a successful business; on the other hand, he might be sad to see how Omar has turned into a capitalist, making the most of Thatcher’s England.

…“never indulges in the kind of patronizing sentimentality that turns the Pakistanis into either social problems or mere victims of English racism.”

Kureishi’s work was heavily criticised, most notably by Ruvani Ranasinha, as approaching all issues from a male point of view, while he has been accused of mistreating his female characters

 Many black people and particularly Asians, hated it. The reason for this, I think, is because they refused to look at the film in any other way than as a piece of realism, that is to say, a film that attempted an accurate representation of its subject

One segment of the Asian community, however, had an overwhelmingly positive response to the film: gay South Asians throughout the diaspora. Trikone, a magazine for the South Asian queer diaspora, devoted almost an entire issue to the film in 2001 stating “the kiss between Johnny and Omar has, to many a queer South Asian, become the moment they came out to themselves”. In the same issue actor Gordon Warnecke, who played Omar, recounts how many gay South Asians have told him they identified with his character and were grateful for the film. In fact, gay communities internationally—South Asian and otherwise—responded positively to the film and it continues to be cited as a favorite gay romance. (In 2004, the Advocate named My Beautiful Laundrette one of the ten best gay or lesbian films of all time.) Part of this popularity results from the fact that rather than depicting its characters as conflicted over their sexual identities—as, for instance, the British film Victim (1961) did—the film shows Johnny and Omar simply as two men in love. Some viewers praised the film precisely because of this ease, while others objected, claiming it was unrealistic.

The film depicts gray streets, nearly empty businesses, and people wandering aimlessly. Nothing is growing or thriving in this environment. Kureishi and Frears’ vision of Thatcher’s England is one of economic devastation with little hope for change. Only one space stands out in this sea of gray: the transformed laundrette.

The conflicts between their respective communities are not healed via their romance—except symbolically inside the fantasy space of the laundrette. Thus, My Beautiful Laundrette avoids the traps some other national romances fall into and demonstrates the potential of the queer national romance to re-imagine the nation, a potential critics have not recognized. Insofar as the imagined community of the nation is itself a kind of collective fantasy, the film is able to do real work through its fantasy—even if the utopic space of the laundrette and the relationship it enables are ultimately unsustainable. The film uses its audience’s desire to see this fragile space survive to create an emotional investment in a new conception of Britishness.  Queer romances contest homophobic nationalisms as they revise imperial fantasies of domination, re-imagining citizenship in radical new ways.

Quotations from the Introduction:

In 1967, Duncan Sandys said: ‘The breeding of millions of half-caste children would merely produce a generation of misfits d create national tensions.’

I wasn’t a misfit; I could join the elements of myself together. It s the others, they wanted misfits; they wanted you to embody within yourself their ambivalence.

I saw the taking up of Islam as an aberration, a desperate fantasy of world-wide black brotherhood; it was a symptom of extreme alienation. It was also an inability to seek a wider politi­1 view or cooperation with other oppressed groups– or with the working class as a whole — since alliance with white groups was necessarily out of the question.

therefore the fact that I couldn’t rightfully lay claim to either place.

This made me think about the close-bonding within the families and about the intimacy and interference of an extended family and a more public way of life. Was the extended family worse than the little nuclear family because there were more people to dislike? Or better because relationships were less intense?

I compared the collective hierarchy of the family and the permanence of my family’s circle, with my feckless, rather rootless life in London, in what was called ‘the inner city’. There I lived alone, and lacked any long connection with anything. I’d hardly known anyone for more than eight years, and certainly not their parents. People came and went. There was much false intimacy and forced friendship. People didn’t take responsibility for each other.

The great master as fallen. Now it was seen as strikebound, drug-ridden, riot­orn, inefficient, disunited, a society which had moved too suddenly from puritanism to hedonism and now loathed itself.

These were: the idea of secular institutions based on reason, not revelation or scripture; the idea that there were no final solutions to human problems; and the idea that the health and vigour of a society was bound up with its ability t tolerate and express a plurality of views on all issues, and tha these views would be welcomed

It was that the English misunderstood the Pakistanis because they saw only the poor people, those from the villages, the illiterates, the peasants, the Pakistanis who didn’t know how t use toilets, how to eat with knives and forks because they we poor. If the British could only see them, the rich, the educated the sophisticated, they wouldn’t be so hostile. They’d know what civilized people the Pakistanis really were. And then they’d like them.

Those Pakistanis who have worked hard to establish busines now vote Tory and give money to the Conservative Party. T interests are the same as those of middle-class business people

But what is the Conservative view of them? Roger Scruton in his book The Meaning Of Conservatism sets out the case against m respect and understanding.

Firstly he deplores all race relations legislation and tries to justify certain kinds of racism by making it seem a harmless preference certain kinds of people. He calls this preference a ‘natural off of allegiance.

The Labour Party has failed to show that it is serious about combating racism and serious in representing the black working class.

There is real defensiveness and insecurity, a Victorian fear of revealing so much as a genital of an idea, the nipple of a notion or the sex of a syllogism. Where sexual exhibitionism and the discus­sion of positions and emissions is fashionable, indeed orthodox, thinking and argument are avoided.

I would rather walk naked down the street than stand up for the National Anthem.

Two days after my return I took my washing to a laundrette and gave it to the attendant only to be told she didn’t touch the clothes of foreigners: she didn’t want me anywhere near her blasted laundrette

I was in a rage. I thought: who wants to be British anyway? Or as a black American writer said: who wants to be integrated into a burning house anyway?

In his 1941 essay ‘England Your England’ Orwell says: ‘the gentleness of the English civilisation is perhaps its most marked characteristic’. He calls the country ‘a family with the wrong members in control’ and talks of the ‘soundness and homogenicity of England’.

Elsewhere he considers the Indian character. `maniacal suspiciousness’ which, agreeing, he claim Forster in A Passage To India, he calls ‘the be vice . . .’ But he has the grace to acknowledge in-] Counting Niggers’ that the overwhelming bulk 1 proletariat [lives] . . . in Asia and Africa’.

But this is niggardly. The main object of his praise is `tolerance’ and he writes of ‘their gentle manners’ that this aspect of England ‘is continuous, it sue future and the past, there is something in it that persists.

Tolerant, gentle British whites have no idea he tolerance is experienced by blacks here. No idea a hostility and contempt directed against black people state and individual alike in this land once describe being not one of ‘rubber truncheons’ or `Jew-baiters but of flower-lovers’ with ‘mild knobbly faces’. But in pm the flower-lovers are all gone, the rubber truncheons or Jew-baiters are at large, and if any real contemporary a given to Orwell’s blind social patriotism, then `tolerance’ must be seriously examined for depth substantial content.

In the meantime it must be made clear that black `tolerance’ in this particular condescending way It isn’t this particular paternal tyranny that is wanted, since ut is adjustments to British society that have to be made.

despite the efforts of touring companies and so failed to get its ideas beyond a small enthusiastic audience.

The film started off as an epic. It was to be like The Godfather, opening in the past with the arrival of an immigrant family in England and showing their progress to the present.

old shop we built a laundrette of such authenticity that  people came in off the street with their washing;

Quotations from the film:

 I don’t like to see one of our blokes [Johnny] grovelling to Pakis. Look they came over here to work for us. That’s why we brought them over, okay?

What chance would an Englishman give a leftist communist Pakistani on newspapers?”

“What chance a racist Englishman has given us that we haven’t taken it from him with our hands?”

“Families. I hate families.”

“And you must understand, we’re of different generations; different classes. Everything is waiting for you. The only thing that has ever waited for me, is your father.”

He adores you. I expect he wants you to take over the businesses. He wouldn’t think of asking me.”

“You tell him: you go to college. He must have knowledge. We all must, now. In order to see clearly what’s being done and to whom in this Country, right?”

Nasser: I thought you two were getting married.

Omar: Yes, any day now.

Tania: I’d rather drink my own urine.

Omar: I hear it can be quite tasty with a slice of lemon.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] In this damn country, which we hate and love, you can get anything you want. It’s all spread out and available. That’s why I believe in England. Only you need to know how to squeeze the tits of the system.

 

Nasser: [to Johnny] I’m a professional businessman not a professional Pakistani. And there is no question of race in the new enterprise culture.

 

Papa: You must be getting married. Why else would you be dressed like an undertaker on holiday?

Omar: Going to Uncle’s house, Papa. He’s given me a car.

Papa: What? The brakes must be faulty. Tell me one thing because there’s something I don’t understand, though it must be my fault. How is it that scrubbing cars can make a son of mine look so ecstatic?

Omar: It gets me out of the house.

Papa: Don’t get too involved with that crook. You’ve got to study. We are under siege by the white man. For us education is power. [Omar shakes his head at his father] Don’t let me down.

 

Johnny: [driving Cherry and Salim home, Omar stops by a bunch of street kids, one of whom is Johnny. Omar gets out of the car to talk to Johnny] [indicating his friends] Like me friends?

Omar: Ring us then.

Johnny: I will. [indicates the car where Cherry is getting very angry] Leave ’em there. We can do something. Now. Just us.

 

Omar: I’m being promoted. To Uncle’s laundrette.

Papa: [throwing a pair of socks to Omar] Illustrate your washing methods!

 

Johnny: [Omar is showing Johnny round the laundrette] I’m dead impressed by all this.

Omar: You were the one at school. The one I liked.

Johnny: [sarcastically] All the Pakis liked me.

 

Nasser: [Nasser bursts into the room where Johnny and Omar made love just moments before] What the hell are you doing? Sunbathing?

Omar: Asleep, Uncle. We were shagged out.

 

Salim: I want to talk to Omar about business.

Johnny: I dunno where he is.

Salim: Is it worth waiting?

Johnny: In my experience, it’s always worth waiting for Omo.

 

Johnny: Fuck me! What’s she doing with that mouse?

 

Nasser: [whilst having sex with his lover] Christ, you move like a liner.

 

Nasser: Yes… But first we must marry Omar off. [Cut to Omar and Johnny making love in the back room]

 

Johnny: Ain’t nothing I can say to make it up to you. There’s only things I can do to show you… That I am with you.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] Nothing but a toilet and a youth club. A constant boil on my bum.

 

Papa: [to Omar] Work now till you go back to college. And I’m fixing you up with a job with your uncle.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] Okay, I charge you basic rent. The key you keep.

 

Papa: [on the phone] Oh, one thing more, try to fix him up with a nice girl. I’m not sure his penis is in full working order.

 

Johnny: [to Omar] A laundrette as big as the Ritz. Oh yes.

 

Nasser: What are you doing, boy?

Omar: It will be going into profit any day now. Partly because I hired a bloke of astounding competence and strength of body and mind.

 

Gang Member: Why are you working for these people? Pakis.

Johnny: It’s work, that’s why.

 

Nasser: Where are those two buggers?

 

Papa: [to Omar] I don’t want my son in this underpants cleaning condition.

 

[first lines] Johnny: We’re moving house.

 

[last lines]  Johnny: Don’t you be touching me!

 

Omar: What are you going to do with me?

Nasser: What am I going to do with you? Turn you into something damn good.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] On the other hand a little water on the brain might clear your thoughts.

 

Salim: [to Omar] You’re one of us now Omar.

 

Nasser: What bloke?

Omar: He’s called Johnny.

 

Johnny: Today has been the best day.

Omar: Yeah, almost the best day.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] Bring Tania over here. Marry her. Well, what’s wrong with her? When I say marry her, you damn well do it. Be nice to her, pressure off my fucking head. Your penis works doesn’t it? Get going!

 

Omar: It took you a while to get onto us.

Salim: Wanted to see what you’d do. How’s your Papa? So many books written and read. Politicians sought him out. Bhutto was his close friend. But we’re nothing in England without money.

 

Papa: This damn country has done us in. That’s why I’m like this. We should be there. Home.

Nasser: But that country’s been sodomised by religion. It’s beginning to interfere with the making of money. Compared with everywhere… it’s a little heaven, here.

 

Johnny: We’ll just have to do a job to get the money.

Omar: I don’t want you going back to all that!

Johnny: Just to get us through, Omo. We’re going to go on. You want that, don’t you?

Omar: Yeah. I want you.

 

Omar: You know who I saw today? Johnny. Johnny!

Papa: The boy who came here dressed as a fascist with a quarter-inch of hair?

Omar: He was a friend once, for years.

Papa: There were times when he didn’t deserve your admiration so much.

Omar: Christ, I’ve known him since I was five!

Papa: He went too far.

 

Omar: Where did you go? You just disappeared.

Johnny: Drinking, I went. With my old mates. It ain’t illegal.

Omar: Of course it is, laundrettes are a big commitment. Why aren’t you at work?

Johnny: It’ll be closing time soon. You’ll be locking the place up, and coming to bed.

Omar: No, it never closes. One of us has got to be there. That way, we begin to make money.

Johnny: You’re getting greedy.

Omar: I want big money. I’m not going to be beat down by this country.

 

Salim: There’s some things between them I’m looking into.

 

Tania: I’m going. You can come.

Johnny: No good jobs like this around.

Tania: Omar just runs you around everywhere, like a servant.

Johnny: I’ll stay here with my friend and fight it out.

Tania: My family, Salim and all… will swallow you up like a little kebab.

Johnny: I couldn’t leave him. Not now. Don’t ask me to. You ever touched him?

 

 

Omar: When we were in school, you and your friends were kicking me around the place. And what are you doing now? Washing my floor and that’s how I like it.

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No Night Is Too Long by Barbara Vine

(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

“My life is a dull one,” says Tim Cornish.

Set in Alaska and Suffolk, this story is written in three first-person narrations, the first and longest of which is the memoir-confession of Tim Cornish. Tim, a would-be novelist of twenty-four, has just received his master’s degree. He travels to Alaska for a nature-exploration cruise with his somewhat older male lover, Ivo, a paleontologist who will be lecturing during the cruise. Tim has been living with and supported by Ivo, but, since Ivo’s recent declaration of love, Tim has tired of him. Ashore in Juneau while Ivo is elsewhere, Tim meets Isabel, an unhappily married, somewhat older woman, with whom Tim immediately falls in love, and he promises to meet her in Seattle in ten days after breaking up with Ivo (who he pretends is a woman). When Tim tells Ivo their relationship is over, Ivo refuses to accept it. On an excursion to an uninhabited island, the two men tussle; Tim strikes Ivo, who then strikes his head against a tree and moves no more. Leaving Ivo for dead, Tim flees the island and rejoins the cruise, saying nothing of what has happened. He helps himself to the cash and credit card Ivo left behind and flies to Seattle, hoping to find Isabel, but his guilt causes him to abandon that plan and he returns to the UK, where he settles into an unchallenging job in his hometown and lives alone in his parents’ house. As there has been no word of a police inquiry, no report of the finding of Ivo’s body, Tim seems to have committed the perfect crime, though he is increasingly haunted by what he has done, believing he sees Ivo everywhere. Then he begins to receive a series of anonymous letters, each of which describes the island ordeal—and rescue—of a castaway. Someone knows what he did.

Isabel’s own brief memoir, in the form of a letter of sorts to Ivo, and a concluding letter to his wife by a schoolboy friend of Tim’s who becomes Tim’s solicitor, complete the book, which explores questions of sexual identity, fidelity, and guilt.

I had to look up half-hunter = pocket watch; geode = geological secondary structures which occur in certain sedimentary and volcanic rocks.

She uses the term ‘part of the gay scene’ oddly to mean a way of talking rather than places.

Ok, so the protagonist is going to creative writing classes but would anyone, ever, write: But I felt as Orpheus must have when pursued by Maenads?

There’s a vivid sense of place.

The twist towards the end takes a while before you put the pieces together.

What a superb form of revenge – to send so much material to a fax machine that it devours several rolls of paper.

It’s about obsession, with sexual passion supposedly its linchpin. Yet the characters are as chilly as the Alaskan seascape in which much of its action takes place. Rendell is not an author one associates with coyness, yet the sexual acts, straight and gay alike, are described through the standard evasions of women’s magazine fiction: ‘Her back arched and her body reached for me and she wasn’t silent any more, her gasps – or mine, they were indistinguishable – were as eloquent as the rushing water.’

It’s been accused of being homophobic: the true homosexual is murdererd which enables the bisexual boyfriend to live happy ever after with his girlfriend.

Quotations:

“Without me, without me,
Everyday’s misery.
But with me – am I wrong?
No night is too long!”
“Why do you always wear black?”
She delighted me with her answer, the correct, the only, answer. “I’m in mourning for my life. I’m unhappy.”
“Lean on me,” someone says in Jane Austen to a woman he scarcely knows, and there’s no question but that she will, that she takes it for granted.”
“Ivo had grown more and more like one of those characters in his books who are always groaning about their miserable fate in helplessly loving someone unworthy of their love. Maugham never says much about what that’s like for the poor old unworthy object. I could have told him. It’s not exactly uplifting for the self-image.”

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Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Thomas McNulty, aged barely seventeen and having fled the Great Famine in Ireland, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas goes on to fight in the Indian Wars—against the Sioux and the Yurok—and, ultimately, the Civil War. Orphans of terrible hardships themselves, the men find these days to be vivid and alive, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in.
What Tom has observed among the Sioux is that men can choose to dress as squaws at home but, in battle, still be warriors. This thought becomes his guide. He feels at home in a dress but, as a soldier, follows orders even when they are treacherous, learning that there are good men and bad on any side.

Tom, John and Winona survive battlefields and atrocities, trek across America’s great plains into the agonised, villainous aftermath of the war between the states. Barry makes us understand how. Grief may freeze the heart, the body be tested to extremes, but where there’s life there’s hope, and love is what makes life worth living, a sentiment that, we are told in other reviews, links Barry’s novels across all their times and places.

There are vast open spaces and extreme weather

The world is seemingly indifferent yet the love for each other gives it some meaning.

Because we were nothing ourselves, to begin with” – is later amplified by the nightmarish tale he hears from a fellow Irishman whose passage to the New World ends with corpses floating in the bilges, immured and abandoned. “That’s why no one will talk,” reflects Thomas, feeling that what has happened is simply not accounted as a subject. “That’s because we were thought worthless. Nothing people. I guess that’s what it was. That thinking just burns through your brain for a while. Nothing but scum.”

They appear merely as two teenage soldier boys until this sentence is casually dropped in: And then we quietly fucked and then we slept.

The image of a country populated by spectral figures, devastated by conflicts that leave men “making the noises of ill-butchered cattle”, their limbs hanging by a thread, their bodies emaciated and withered, is in sharp contrast with the landscape that inspires awe in both Thomas and Barry, and which seems to demand an equal grandeur in the observer: “A vicious ruined class of man could cry at such scenes because it seems to tell him that his life is not approved.”

The descriptions are very visual- you can almost imagine it as a film.

The language is beautiful.

The book is full of questions about identity. The Indians who fight like savages one day leave food for starving soldiers the next. The kindly major leads a vicious assault on an Indian village out of revenge.

The war is reminiscent of the Old Testament command to out everything under the ban – everyone and every crop to be destroyed.

One of our members said: Having childhood memories of playing cowboys and Indians I’ve now come to see how the conquest of the American west with the dispossession of the native peoples was a crime. So I couldn’t get into the book despite its acclaim in many reviews as a good gay book read.

Another got fed up with the violence and nearly gave up three times but accepted that the violence wasn’t gratuitous.

Barry lives in County Wicklow with his wife, Alison, and their three children, Coral, Merlin and Toby. Barry has stated that Toby coming out as gay was important to the writing of Barry’s book Days Without End, and that Toby’s experiences informed the gay relationship in that book

McNulty is gay – not that the word would have meant anything in 19th-century America. That, says Barry, is one reason why the book is short: his narrator did not have the words or the notions to make it longer. McNulty falls in love with a young American man, cross-dresses and marries him. They adopt an orphaned Native American girl and build an unlikely family in Tennessee – a paradise created after the hell McNulty and his lover experience when they join the army.

Days Without End is dedicated to Barry’s son Toby – and McNulty’s sexuality is also a tribute to the teenager. “Three years ago, when he was 16 and I was doing the reading for this book, Toby was very unhappy, and when a young man is unhappy we must take note. I was desperately trying to find out what was wrong, but you can’t ask him directly. You have to be a sleuth, a kind of Sherlock Holmes of his unhappiness.”

At the time of the 2015 referendum in Ireland on same-sex marriage, Barry wrote an open letter – with his son’s permission – in support of a yes vote. “I felt I had to do something,” he says, “so I wrote to the Irish Times, which is the default action of the middle-aged Irish Catholic. I showed the letter to Toby and he just wept, which is unusual because he is a very mensch-like person.”

Later Toby was threatened on a train after kissing his boyfriend goodbye on the platform. “He was very frightened by that and it led to more unhappiness, so I thought we’re on a bit of a war footing here.” Toby discussed drag with Barry and how gay men from tough backgrounds sometimes used it as a form of empowerment. Those ideas seeped into the book, though not, Barry is at pains to point out, as a manifesto.

The character of McNulty grew out of a reference his grandfather Jack O’Hara made to a great uncle who emigrated to America to escape the famine. O’Hara, who fell out with the author over the literary airing of family secrets, is himself the mainspring of another Barry work, The Temporary Gentleman.

Barry has described his childhood as a “singular mess”. He says he and his three siblings were farmed out to relatives, which is how Barry heard the stories about the first world war, the Easter Rising and the civil war in Ireland that he has used to such effect in his novels. This obsessive winnowing of family secrets suggests a search for certainty after a childhood that had little.

 Quotations:

I am thinking of the days without end of my life…’

 “It was a mad world but a lucky one too, now and then”

We were two wood-shavings of humanity in a rough world

“The whole town was perishing like stray cats.”

“We were nothing. No one wanted us. Canada was a-feared of us. We were a plague. We were only rats of people. Hunger takes away what you are.”

“time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending.

We washed our shirts and trews and when we went out to get them off the bushes, they were as stiff as corpses in the cold. Some poor cows froze where they were standing like they had peered into the face of old Medusa. Men lost the wages of three years hence at cards. They bet their boots and then pled for the pity of the winner. The piss froze as it left our peckers and woe betide the man with an obstruction or hesita­tion to their shit, because soon they had a brown icicle on their arse. The whiskey continued its work of eating our livers. It was as good a life as most of us had ever knowed.

When all the bodies were in, we covered over the pits with the soil we had left, like we were putting pastry tops on two enormous pies.

John Cole’s long face, long stride. The moonlight not able to flatter him because he was ready beautiful.

we respectfully drop the men into their holes and then we cover them up with a bedding of earth and every man in due course has a mound of the same earth over him like eiderdowns in a fancy hotel.

“Hunger is a sort of fire, a furnace. I loved my father when I was a human person formerly. Then he died and I was hungry and then the ship. Then nothing. Then America. Then John Cole. John Cole was my love, all my love.”

You can rise up out of your saddle and sort of look down on yourself riding, it’s as if the stern and relentless monotony makes you die, come back to life, and die again.

“Oftentimes in America you could go stark mad from the ugliness of things. But now in the far distance we see a land begin to be suggested as if maybe a man was out there painting it with a huge brush.”

We would gladly put our hands over our ears but our muskets are raised and trained along the line of the wig­wams. We are watching for the rat-run of the survivors. There is a stretch of time as long as creation and I can hear the whizzing of the shell, a spinning piercing sound, and then it makes its familiar thud-thud and pulls at the belly of heaven and spreads its mayhem around it, the sides of wigwams torn off like faces, the violent wind of the blast toppling others flat, revealing people in various poses of surprise and horror.

Then they are pulling knives from their waists and hollering and -there is a sort of mad joyous desper­ation in it that kindles a crazy fire in the heart. We are not lovers rushing to embrace but there is a sense of terri­fying union none the less, as if courage yearns to join with courage. I cannot say otherwise. No fighter on earth as brave as a Sioux brave. They have their squaws and kindred sheltered and now at the last desperate moment they must risk all to defend them. But the shells have done terrible damage in the camp. Now I can see plain the broken bodies and the blood and the horrible butch­er shop of carnage that those bursting metal flowers have manufactured. Young girls are strewn about like the vic­tims of a terminous dance. It is as if we have stopped the human clock of the village, that’s what I were thinking.

“We worked back and forth through the milling bodies and tried to kill everything that moved in the murk,” he says. “Two, three, four fell to my thrusts, and I was astonished not to be fired on, astonished at the speed and the horror of the task, and the exhilaration of it, my heart now not racing but burning in my breast like a huge coal. I stabbed and I stabbed.”

“South don’t got uniforms, grits, or oftentimes shoes. Half of these fierce-looking bastards in bare feet. Could be denizens of a Sligo slum-house. God damn it, probably are, some of them.”

“John Cole says he loves me more than any man since the apes roamed.”

There’s a half-blind preacher in a temple called Bar-tram House and I don my best dress and me and John Cole go there and we tie the knot. Rev. Hindle he says the lovely words and John Cole kiss the bride and then it’s done and who to know. Maybe you could read it in their holy book, John Cole and Thomasina McNulty wed this day of our Lord Dec. 7th 1866. In the euphoria of war’s end we reckon a craziness is desired. God don’t mind we know because that day of deep winter is clement, clear and bright. Then as if a token of God’s favour we get a letter from Lige Magan. We been sending missives back and forth while we putting meat back on-our bones. He’s struggling with his farm. The men that his pa freed been killed by militia long since but two. His whole country ruined by war and like a waste of ghosts. The coming year lies heavy on his mind and how he to burn the land alone in January? Been set in grass six years and now it ripe for baccy. If we not otherwise engaged could we come and help him in his hour of need? He says all his cold district is a swamp of mistrust and he trusts me and John. Going to be hard years but maybe we could fed there were something to win. He got no kin but us.

“Don’t tell me a Irish is an example of civilised humanity. He may be an angel in the clothes of a devil or a devil in the clothes of an angel but either way you’re talking to two when you talk to one Irishman.”

Kill them all. Leave nothing alive. Everything was killed. Nothing left to tell the tale. Four hundred and seventy. And when the men were done killing they started to cut. They cut out the cunts of the women and stretched them on their hats. They took the little ball sacks of the boys to be dried into baccy pouches.

Let’s say my ward, my care, the product of some strange instinct deep within that does rob from injustice a shard of love. The palms of her hands like two maps of home, the lines leading homeward like old trails. Her beautiful soft hands with tapering fingers. Her touches like true words. A daughter not a daughter but who I mother best I can.

“a whole corpse gathered up into one tight fist of fear and fright.”

“no one wants to do it and everyone does it.”

“no such item as a virtuous people”

“Everything gets shot at in America, and everything good too.”

“a little kingdom…pitched up against the darkness”

“God in his farmer’s apron, scattering the great seeds of yellow brightness.”

“Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on forever…”

riding like ghosts through the spectral lands.”

“In the euphoria of war’s end we reckon a craziness is desired.”

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The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis

TEOESet in Hallencourt in the Somme, a small and isolated factory town of 1,300 people where Louis grew up, the book is a stark tale of his life below the poverty line, punctuated by his father’s drunken violence – the rage of the humiliated working-class male: racism, homophobia and casual daily brutality.

Eddy Bellegueule (Louis’s real name, which means “beautiful face” in French) is an effeminate child; as a “faggot”, “queer”, “poof”, as he is regularly reminded, he is even worse than an “Arab”, “Jew” or “black”.

Another oft-repeated phrase – “just who do you think you are?” – serves to remind him who he is, where he comes from and where everyone assumes he is going. Instead, Bellegueule forges a new path, via a scholarship and one of France’s elite university schools, writes everything down and changes his name.

Its unemotional style is similar to Zola’s work, though the author claims not to have read him.

It’s non-stop misery, like Gypsy Boy. It’s vidid, powerful. The writing is violent and there is no escape for the reader. There’s no humour, c.f. Oranges are not the Only Fruit.

He suffers not for doing something but for being something and looking like something.

The shed scene is unbelievable: not because boys don’t get up to this but for the seeming enjoyment of a ten-year-old, getting an erection whilst being raped. However, he seems to have wanted this to happen. On p., 130 he speaks of repressed desire, relishes the smell of the older boys and leaps at the chance of wearing women’s clothes and jewellery.

We wondered why he didn’t avoid the bullies. Well, on p. 25 he says that he didn’t want others to see him being beaten up because they’d then know he was gay. On p. 136 he speaks of fear of retaliation.

It jumps about in time a bit. Then again, people with a traumatic past get confused about chronology.

The only black person in a racist village is seen as OK because different.

There’s a vivid and memorable description of his first orgasm.

Were they really that poor in the 1990s? More like the 1950s. And homophobia was much less marked in British schools then.

Is it novel or autobiography? Was it written too son after the event? Not enough perspective?

One chapter title quotes the King James Bible ‘Stait is the gate’. A postgrad student, of English no less, though this was about sexuality.

Who is Tristan at the end? Is he a positive to balance the book’s negative beginning?

The French title has a different nuance: Doing Away with Eddy.

TEOE2Quotations:

‘Before I had a chance to rebel against the world of my childhood, that world rebelled against me. In truth, confronting my parents, my social class, its poverty, racism and brutality came second. From early on I provoked shame and even disgust from my family and others around me. The only option I had was to get away somehow. This book is an effort to understand all that.’

From my childhood I have no happy memories. I don’t mean to say that I never, in all those years, felt any happiness or joy. But suffering is all-consuming.”

“from my eye towards my lips, ready to enter my mouth”

“As far back as I can remember I can see my drunk father fighting with other drunk men leaving the café, breaking noses and teeth,”

“into a plastic supermarket bag” and swinging it against some cement edge “until the bag was filled with blood and the meowing had ceased”.

“the still-warm blood” “it’s the best, the blood you get from an animal right when it dies”.

“Every day I came back, as if we had an appointment, an unspoken contact . . . There was just one idea I held to: here, no one would see us, no one would know. I had to avoid being hit elsewhere, in the playground, in front of the others.”

[S]he was already standing frozen, unable to make the slightest sound or the smallest gesture . . . Her gaze never left mine; I don’t remember what that gaze held. Disgust perhaps, or anguish – I can no longer say.”

“Don’t you ever do that again . . . ”

“Wasting petrol for this theatre shit of yours, really why should I?” Yet he does drive him.

TEOE 3“On the day when the amount of the allowance at the start of the school year was raised, my father, with a joy we rarely saw because he usually played at being the man of the house who could not show his feelings, shouted: ‘Sunday, we’re going to the seaside.’ And indeed we went, six of us in a car big enough for five. I rode in the boot.

It dont make sense, when he says we should kill all the ragheads but then when he lived in the Midi his best mate was a raghead.”

He wasn’t embarrassed, he didn’t feel the violence the prosecutor was exercising, the class violence that had excluded him from the world of education, the violence that had, in the end, led him to the courtroom where he now stood. In fact he must have thought that the prosecutor was ridiculous. That he spoke like a faggot.

There’s a revealing interview with the author here.

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The Imitation Game

TIG(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

Director Morten Tyldum takes on the story of Alan Turing, the genius cryptographer who cracked the infamous Enigma code during the Second World War. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a career-best performance in the lead, betraying his character’s innermost feelings through delicate inflections. He also has fine sparring partners in Charles Dance (as Turing’s superior) and Keira Knightley (as his confidante and fiancée). Fascinating and thrilling, The Imitation Game keeps you gripped by always offering a reminder of what’s at stake, as well as exploring the mind of a brilliant but unfairly treated war hero who should never be forgotten.

In 1951, two policemen, Nock and Staehl, investigate the mathematician Alan Turing after an apparent break-in at his home. During his interrogation by Nock, Turing tells of his time working at Bletchley Park.

In 1927 the young Turing is unhappy and bullied at boarding school. He develops a friendship with Christopher Morcom, who sparks his interest in cryptography, and Turing develops romantic feelings for him. Before Turing can confess his love, Christopher dies unexpectedly from tuberculosis.

When Britain declares war on Germany in 1939, Turing travels to Bletchley Park, where, under the direction of Commander Alastair Denniston, he joins the cryptography team of Hugh Alexander, John Cairncross, Peter Hilton, Keith Furman and Charles Richards. The team are trying to decrypt the Enigma machine, which the Nazis use to send coded messages.

Turing is difficult to work with, and considers his colleagues inferior; he works alone to design a machine to decipher Enigma. After Denniston refuses to fund construction of the machine, Turing writes to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who puts Turing in charge of the team and funds the machine. Turing fires Furman and Richards and places a difficult crossword in newspapers to find replacements. Joan Clarke, a Cambridge graduate, surpasses Turing’s test but her parents will not allow her to work with the male cryptographers. Turing arranges for her to live and work with the female clerks who intercept the messages, and shares his plans with her.

Turing’s machine, which he names Christopher, is constructed, but cannot determine the Enigma settings before the Germans reset the Enigma encryption each day. Denniston orders it destroyed and Turing fired, but the other cryptographers threaten to leave if Turing goes. After Clarke plans to leave on the wishes of her parents, Turing proposes marriage, which she accepts. During their reception, Turing confirms his homosexuality to Cairncross, who warns him to keep it secret. After overhearing a conversation with a female clerk about messages she receives, Turing has an epiphany, realising he can program the machine to decode words he already knows exist in certain messages. After he recalibrates the machine, it quickly decodes a message and the cryptographers celebrate; however, Turing realises they cannot act on every decoded message or the Germans will realise Enigma has been broken.

Turing discovers that Cairncross is a Soviet spy. When Turing confronts him, Cairncross argues that the Soviets are allies working for the same goals, and threatens to retaliate by disclosing Turing’s homosexuality if his role as an agent is revealed. When the MI6 agent Stewart Menzies appears to threaten Clarke, Turing reveals that Cairncross is a spy. Menzies reveals he knew this already, and planted Cairncross among them in order to leak messages to the Soviets for British benefit. Fearing for her safety, Turing tells Clarke to leave Bletchley Park, revealing that he is gay and lying about never having cared for her. After the war, Menzies tells the cryptographers to destroy their work and that they can never see one another again or share what they have done.

In the 1950s Turing is convicted of indecency and, in lieu of a jail sentence, undergoes chemical castration so he can continue his work. Clarke visits him in his home and witnesses his physical and mental deterioration. She comforts him by saying that his work saved millions of lives.

During a flashback to Turing’s former school, Sherborne, we see him separating the carrots from other satuff on hi plate. Then some bullies pile a whole tray of food over him.

The film was criticised by some for its inaccurate portrayal of historical events and Turing’s character and relationships. However, the LGBT civil rights advocacy and political lobbying organisation the Human Rights Campaign honoured The Imitation Game for bringing Turing’s legacy to a wider audience.

Despite earlier reservations, Turing’s niece Inagh Payne told Allan Beswick of BBC Radio Manchester that the film “really did honour my uncle” after she watched the film at the London Film Festival in October 2014. In the same interview, Turing’s nephew Dermont Turing stated that Cumberbatch is “perfect casting. I couldn’t think of anyone better”. James Turing, a great-nephew of the code-breaker, said Cumberbatch “knows things that I never knew before. The amount of knowledge he has about Alan is amazing”.

In January 2015, Cumberbatch, comedian-actor Stephen Fry, producer Harvey Weinstein, and Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes launched a campaign to pardon the 49,000 gay men convicted under the same law that led to Turing’s chemical castration. An open letter published in The Guardian urged the British government and the Royal family, particularly Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to aid the campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Chad Griffin also offered his endorsement, saying: “Over 49,000 other gay men and women were persecuted in England under the same law. Turing was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013. The others were not. Honor this movie. Honor this man. And honor the movement to bring justice to the other 49,000.” Aiding the cause are campaigner Peter Tatchell, Attitude magazine, and other high-profile figures in the gay community.

In February 2015, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Jessica Alba, Bryan Cranston, and Anna Wintour among others joined the petition at Pardon49k.org demanding pardons for victims of anti-gay laws. Other historians, including Justin Bengry of Birkbeck University of London and Matt Houlbrook of the University of Birmingham, argued that such a pardon would be “bad history” despite its political appeal, because of the broad variety of cases in which the historical laws were applied (including cases of rape) and the distortion of history resulting from an attempt to clean up the wrongdoings of the past post facto. Bengry also cites the existing ability of those convicted under repealed anti-homosexuality laws to have their convictions declared spent.

The film has received criticism from historians and academics regarding inaccuracies in the events and people it portrays.

  • Naming the Enigma-breaking machine “Christopher” after Turing’s childhood friend and suggesting that Turing was the only cryptographer working on it, with others either not helping or outright opposed.

In actuality, this electromechanical machine was called “Victory” and it was a collaborative, not individual, effort. It was a British Bombe machine, which was partly inspired by a design by the Polish cryptanalyst Marian Rejewski. Rejewski designed a machine in 1938 called bomba kryptologiczna which exploited a weakness in German operating procedures that was corrected in 1940. A new machine with a different strategy was designed by Turing (with a major contribution from mathematician Gordon Welchman, who goes unmentioned in the film, with the contribution attributed to Hugh Alexander instead) in 1940.

  • Suggesting that only this one machine was built, with Turing playing a large role in its construction.

More than 200 British Bombes were built under the supervision of chief engineer Harold Keen of the British Tabulating Machine Company. None of them were built at Bletchley Park.

  • Suggesting that the work at Bletchley Park was the effort of a small group of cryptographers who were stymied for the first few years of the war until a sudden breakthrough that allowed them to break Enigma.

Progress was actually made before the beginning of the war in 1939 and thousands of men and women were working on the project by the time the war ended in 1945. The computing advances did not obviate the need for human labour, as the many teams of largely female operators certainly knew. Throughout the war, there were breakthroughs and setbacks when the design or use of the German Enigma machines was changed and the Bletchley Park code breakers had to adapt.

Moreover, the breakthrough depicted in the film provides the impression that first the Bombe was developed, then only became effective after it was later realised that deciphering could be made easier by looking for known or speculated items contained in an intercepted message, a practice known in cryptanalysis as employing a crib. However, in reality, the opposite is true; the use of cribs was the central attack model upon which the Bombe’s principal design was based, rather than being an afterthought to the design.

  • Suggesting that Enigma was the only German cipher broken at Bletchley Park.

The breaking of the Lorenz cipher, codenamed “Tunny”, was arguably just as important as the breaking of Enigma in terms of contributing to the value of Ultra intelligence, and the code-breaking effort was in many ways more difficult. Neither the Tunny effort nor its main contributors, mathematician W. T. “Bill” Tutte and electrical engineer Tommy Flowers, are mentioned in the film. The Colossus computer they built goes unmentioned by name in the film, although there is an implicit suggestion that Turing was responsible for it, which he was not.

  • Showing a scene where the Hut 8 team decides not to use broken codes to stop a German raid on a convoy that the brother of one of the code breakers (Peter Hilton) is serving on, to hide the fact they have broken the code.

In reality, Hilton had no such brother, and decisions about when and whether to use data from Ultra intelligence were made at much higher administrative levels.

  • Showing Turing writing a letter to Churchill to gain control over Enigma breaking and obtain funding for the decryption machine.

Turing was actually not alone in making a different request with a number of colleagues, including Hugh Alexander, writing a letter to Churchill (who had earlier visited there) in an effort to get more administrative resources sent to Bletchley Park, which Churchill immediately did.

  • The depiction of the recruitment of Joan Clarke as a result of an examination after solving a crossword puzzle in a newspaper.

In reality, Joan Clarke was recruited by her former academic supervisor, Gordon Welchman, to the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS).

While a few writers and researchers have tried to assign such a retrospective diagnosis to Turing, and it is true that he had his share of eccentricities, the Asperger’s-like traits portrayed in the film – social awkwardness, difficulty working cooperatively with others, and tendency to take things too literally – bear little relationship to the actual adult Turing, who, despite enjoying working alone, was sociable and had friends, was also viewed as having a sense of humour, and had good working relationships with colleagues.

  • Scenes about Turing’s childhood friend, including the manner in which Turing learned of Morcom’s illness and death.
  • Portraying Turing’s arrest as happening in 1951 and having a detective suspect him of being a Soviet spy until Turing tells his code-breaking story in an interview with the detective, who then discovers Turing is gay.

Turing’s arrest was in 1952. The detective in the film and the interview as portrayed are fictional. Turing was investigated for his homosexuality after a robbery at his house and was never investigated for espionage.

  • Suggesting that the chemical castration that Turing was forced to undergo made him unable to think clearly or do any work.

Despite physical weakness and changes in Turing’s body including gynaecomastia, at that time he was doing innovative work on mathematical biology, inspired by the very changes his body was undergoing due to chemical castration.

  • Clarke visiting Turing in his home while he is serving probation.

There is no record of Clarke ever visiting Turing’s residence during his probation, although Turing did stay in touch with her after the war and informed her of his upcoming trial for indecency.[91]

  • Stating outright that Turing committed suicide after a year of hormone treatment.

In reality, the nature of Turing’s death is a matter of considerable debate. The chemical castration period ended fourteen months before his death. The official inquest into his death ruled that he had committed suicide by consuming a cyanide-laced apple. Turing biographer Andrew Hodges believes the death was indeed a suicide, re-enacting the poisoned apple from Snow White, Turing’s favourite fairy tale, with some deliberate ambiguity included to permit Turing’s mother to interpret it as an accident. However, Jack Copeland, an editor of volumes of Turing’s work and Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing, has suggested that Turing’s death may have been accidental, caused by the cyanide fumes produced by an experiment in his spare room, and that the investigation was poorly conducted.

Denniston’s grandchildren stated that the film takes an “unwarranted sideswipe” at their grandfather’s memory, showing him to be a “baddy” and a “hectoring character” who hinders the work of Turing. They said their grandfather had a completely different temperament from the one portrayed in the film and was entirely supportive of the work done by cryptographers under his command. There is no record of the film’s depicted interactions between Turing and Denniston. Indeed, before the war, Denniston recruited lecturers at Oxford and Cambridge, and Turing, Welchman, and others began working part-time for him then. Turing was always respected and considered one of the best code-breakers at Bletchley Park and in short order took on the role of a leader there.

Many interviews conducted with many of the people who worked at Bletchley Park have said many times that they had been instructed not to ask about activities in other huts. There’s several scenes where other characters do just that, such as when the code breakers are celebrating in the pub and ask Helen about her work in her hut and also when Joan mentions about how the girls in one hut had been in a row over events in another hut.

Joan was not hired after solving a crossword puzzle in the newspaper. She was at Bletchley Park already when she was promoted to work with Turing’s group. Turing, however, did publish a crossword puzzle in the January 13, 1942 London Daily Telegraph in an effort to recruit more code-breakers.

While the group is trying to decipher the daily Enigma code, the wall clock strikes midnight setting off an alarm. In frustration, Hugh throws all of the days work to the floor because the German military change the Enigma code daily at midnight (German time) rendering the work useless. However, the work done could be completed (as was often done) in the early hours of the morning or at a later date – the information would not be as timely, but the intercepts and any work would be saved, not discarded.

In the opening scene, the police sergeant describes Turing as a ‘professor at King’s’ and he is then addressed as ‘Professor Turing’. At this time Turing had been at Manchester University for several years where he was a Reader, not a Professor. In any case, it is most unlikely that King’s College Cambridge would have been referred to simply as ‘King’s’ outside that town, there being other notable colleges of that name such as King’s College London.

At the end, Turing is portrayed as working on his own computer in Manchester. In reality, while he had such a project called ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) at the National Physical Laboratory, he abandoned this due to lack of progress. He moved to the University of Manchester after they demonstrated the first stored program computer, as he was primarily interested in programming the machines rather than building them.

The narrative conceit of the film is that Alan Turing explains his curiously empty military record by describing all his wartime codebreaking activities to a police detective in 1951. But there is no evidence that a single one of the workers at Bletchley Park ever breathed a word about what they had done during the War to anybody – even their own families – prior to the late 1970s. It is safe to assume that Alan Turing certainly never did.

“If any young person’s ever felt like they aren’t quite sure who they are, or aren’t allowed to express themselves the way they’d like to express themselves, if they’ve ever felt bullied by what they feel is the normal majority or any kind of thing that makes them feel an outsider, then this is definitely a film for them because it’s about a hero for them,” Cumberbatch stated at the European Premiere of the film at the London Film Festival, October 2014

Christopher Morcom: Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.

Alan Turing: Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes… hollow.

Final quotes: His machine was never perfected, though it generated a whole field of research into what became known as “Turing Machines”. Today we call them “computers”.

Joan Clarke: I know it’s not ordinary. But who ever loved ordinary?

Alan Turing: When people talk to each other, they never say what they mean. [pause] They say something else and you’re expected to just know what they mean.

Alan Turing: Are you paying attention? Good. If you are not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. You think that because you’re sitting where you are, and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen. You’re mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know.  [pause]  hat I will need from you now is a commitment. You will listen closely, and you will not judge me until I am finished. If you cannot commit to this, then please leave the room. But if you choose to stay, remember you chose to be here. What happens from this moment forward is not my responsibility. It’s yours. Pay attention.

John Cairncross: The boys, we’re going to get some lunch. [no response] Alan?

Alan Turing: Yes?

John Cairncross: I said we’re going to get some lunch. [no response] Alan?

Alan Turing: Yes?

John Cairncross: Can you hear me?

Alan Turing: Yes.

John Cairncross: I said we’re off to get some lu-… [disrupts himself]

John Cairncross: This is starting to get a little bit repetitive.

Alan Turing: What is?

John Cairncross: I had asked, if you wanted to come have lunch with us.

Alan Turing: No, you didn’t, you said you were going to get some lunch.

John Cairncross: Have I offended you in some way?

Alan Turing: Why would you think that?

John Cairncross: Would you like to come to lunch with us?

Alan Turing: What time’s lunch time?

Hugh Alexander: [Frustrated] Christ, Alan, it’s a bleeding sandwich.

Alan Turing: What is?

Hugh Alexander: Lunch.

Alan Turing: Oh, I don’t like sandwiches.

John Cairncross: Nevermind.

Alan Turing: I like solving problems, Commander. And Enigma is the most difficult problem in the world.

Commander Denniston: Enigma isn’t difficult, it’s impossible. The Americans, the Russians, the French, the Germans, everyone thinks Enigma is unbreakable.

Alan Turing: Good. Let me try and we’ll know for sure, won’t we?

Alan Turing: Of course machines can’t think as people do. A machine is different from a person. Hence, they think differently. The interesting question is, just because something, uh… thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking? Well, we allow for humans to have such divergences from one another. You like strawberries, I hate ice-skating, you cry at sad films, I am allergic to pollen. What is the point of… different tastes, different… preferences, if not, to say that our brains work differently, that we think differently? And if we can say that about one another, then why can’t we say the same thing for brains… built of copper and wire, steel?

Joan Clarke: Alan, what’s happened?

Alan Turing: [pause] We can’t be engaged anymore. Your parents need to take you back. Find you a husband elsewhere.

Joan Clarke: What’s wrong with you?

Alan Turing: I have something to tell you. I’m… I’m a homosexual.

Joan Clarke: Alright.

Alan Turing: No, no, men, Joan. Not women.

Joan Clarke: So what?

Alan Turing: I just told you…

Joan Clarke: So what? I had my suspicions. I always did. But we’re not like other people. We love each other in our own way, and we can have the life together that we want. You won’t be the perfect husband? I can promise you I harboured no intention of being the perfect wife. I’ll not be fixing your lamb all day, while you come home from the office, will I? I’ll work. You’ll work. And we’ll have each other’s company. We’ll have each other’s minds. Sounds like a better marriage than most. Because I care for you. And you care for me. And we understand one another more than anyone else ever has.

Alan Turing: I don’t.

Joan Clarke: What?

Alan Turing: Care for you. I never did. I just needed you to break Enigma. I’ve done that now, so you can go.

Joan Clarke: [slaps him] I am not going anywhere. I have spent entirely too much of my life worried about what you think of me, or what my parents think of me, or what the boys in Hut 8 or the girls in Hut 3 think, and you know I am done. This work is the most important thing I will ever do. And no one will stop me. Least of all you. [pause] You know what? They were right. Peter. Hugh. John. You really are a monster.

[last lines]  Alan Turing: You got what you wanted. A husband, a job… a normal life.

Joan Clarke: No one normal could have done that. Do you know, this morning… I was on a train that went through a city that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn’t for you. I read up on my work… a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you. And while you wish you could have been normal… I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.

Alan Turing: You really think that?

Joan Clarke: I think, that sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one… can imagine.

[first lines] Alan Turing: Are you paying attention? Good. If you’re not listening carefully you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. If you think that because you’re sitting where you are and I am sitting where I am that you are in control of what is about to happen, you ‘re mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know.

Hugh Alexander: If you run the wires across the plugboard matrix diagonally, you’ll eliminate rotor positions 500 times faster.

Alan Turing: This is actually not an entirely terrible idea.

Joan Clarke: That’s Alan for “thank you.”

Alan Turing: Hardest time to lie to somebody is when they’re expecting to be lied to.

Alan Turing: Was I God? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.

 

Alan Turing: Advice about keeping secrets: it’s a lot easier if you don’t know them in the first place.

 

Stewart Menzies: [candidates are taking a timed test] Six minutes… is that even possible?

Alan Turing: No, it takes me eight.

Joan Clarke: [raises her hand]

Alan Turing: You’re finished?… Five minutes thirty four seconds.

Joan Clarke: You said to finish under six minutes.

 

Alan Turing: [after telling the story] Now you decide: Am I a machine? Am I a human? Am I a war hero? Or am I a criminal?

Detective Robert Nock: I can’t judge you.

Alan Turing: Well, then. You were of no help to me at all.

 

Alan Turing: Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

 

Alan Turing: Uh, that’s my sandwich.

Hugh Alexander: You don’t like sandwiches.

 

Alan Turing: Think of it. A digital computer. Electrical brain.

Alan Turing: [Explaining the Turing Test] “The Imitation Game.”

Detective Robert Nock: Right, that’s… that’s what it’s about?

Alan Turing: Would you like to play?

Detective Robert Nock: Play?

Alan Turing: It’s a game. A test of sorts. For determining whether something is a… a machine or a human being.

Detective Robert Nock: How do I play?

Alan Turing: Well, there’s a judge and a subject, and… the judge asks questions and, depending on the subject’s answers, determines who he is talking with… what he is talking with, and, um… All you have to do is ask me a question.

 

Stewart Menzies: Mr Turing, do you know how many people have died because of Enigma?

Alan Turing: No, I don’t.

Stewart Menzies: Three.

Alan Turing: Three?

Stewart Menzies: While we’ve been having this conversation.

Stewart Menzies: [he looks at his watch] Oh look, there’s another. I rather hope he didn’t have a family.

 

Alan Turing: You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here!

 

Stewart Menzies: Oh, Alan… we’re gonna have such a wonderful war together.

 

Commander Denniston: This is Stewart Menzies. MI6.

Charles Richards: There are only five divisions of military intelligence. There is no MI6.

Stewart Menzies: Exactly. That’s the spirit.

 

Alan Turing: He likes you.

Joan Clarke: Yes.

Alan Turing: You – you got him to like you.

Joan Clarke: Yes.

Alan Turing: Why?

Joan Clarke: Because I’m a woman in a man’s job, and I don’t have the luxury of being an ass.

 

Alan Turing: It wasn’t just programmable, it was reprogrammable.

 

Hugh Alexander: Damn you, you and your machine.

 

John Cairncross: What’s wrong?

Alan Turing: What if… what if I don’t fancy being with Joan in that way?

John Cairncross: Because you’re a homosexual? I suspected.

Alan Turing: Sh- should I tell her that I’ve had affairs with men?

John Cairncross: You know, in my admittedly limited experience, women tend to be a bit touchy about accidentally marrying homosexuals. Perhaps not spreading this information about might be in your best interest.

Alan Turing: I care for her, I truly do, but… I-I just don’t know if I can pretend…

John Cairncross: You can’t tell anyone, Alan. It’s illegal. And Denniston is looking for any excuse he can to put you away.

Alan Turing: I know.

John Cairncross: This has to stay a secret.

 

Alan Turing: Codes are a puzzle. A game, just like any other game.

 

Peter Hilton: You’re not God, Alan. You don’t get to decide who lives and who dies.

Alan Turing: Yes, yes we do.

Peter Hilton: Why? Why?

Alan Turing: Because we’re the only ones who can.

 

Detective Robert Nock: Mr Turing, can I tell you a secret?

Alan Turing: I’m quite good with those.

Detective Robert Nock: I’m here to help you.

Alan Turing: Oh, clearly!

Detective Robert Nock: Can machines think?

Alan Turing: Oh, so you’ve read some of my published works?

Detective Robert Nock: What makes you say that?

Alan Turing: Oh, because I’m sitting in a police station, accused of entreating a young man to touch my penis, and you’ve just asked me if machines can think.

Detective Robert Nock: Well, can they? Could machines ever think as human beings do?

Alan Turing: Most people say not.

Detective Robert Nock: You’re not most people.

 

Stewart Menzies: Why are you telling me this ?

Alan Turing: We need your help, to keep this a secret from Admiralty, Army, RAF. Ah… as no one can know, that we’ve broken enigma, not even

[Commander]

Alan Turing: Dennison

Stewart Menzies: Who’s in the process of having you fired ?

Joan Clarke: You can take care of that.

Alan Turing: While we develop a system to help you determine how much intelligence to act on. Which ahh attacks to stop, which to let through. Statistical analysis, the minimum number of actions it will take, for us to win the war – but the maximum number we can take, before the Germans get suspicious

Stewart Menzies: And you’re going to trust of this all to statistics ? To maths ?

Alan Turing: Correct.

Joan Clarke: And then MI6 can come up with the lies we will tell everyone else

Alan Turing: You’ll need a believable alternative source for all the pieces of information that you use

Joan Clarke: A false story, so that we can explain how we got our information, that has nothing to do with Enigma, and then you can leak those stories to the Germans

Alan Turing: And then to our own military

Stewart Menzies: Maintain a conspiracy of lies at the very highest levels of govt ?… Sounds right up my alley.

 

Commander Denniston: Well, you realize that six hundred miles away from London there’s this nasty little chap called Hitler who wants to engulf Europe in tyranny.

Alan Turing: Politics isn’t really my area of expertise.

 

Hugh Alexander: Love will make a man do strange things, I suppose.

Alan Turing: In this case, love just lost Germany the whole bloody war!

 

Hugh Alexander: You know to pull off this irascible genius routine, one has to actually be a genius.

 

Hugh Alexander: Because there’s nothing like a friend’s engagement to make a woman want to do something that she’ll later regret with the fiancé’s better looking chum.

 

Headmaster: [grilling young Alan about note-passing] You and your friend solve maths problems during maths class because the maths class is too dull?

 

Title Card: After a year of government-mandated hormonal therapy, Alan Turing committed suicide on June 7th, 1954.He was 41 years old. Between 1995 and 1967, approximately 49,000 homosexual men were convicted of gross indecency under British law. In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous royal pardon, honoring his unprecedented achievements.

Title Card: Historians estimate that breaking Enigma shortened the war by more than two years, saving over 14 million lives. It remained a government-held secret for more than 50 years. Turing’s work inspired generations of research into what scientists called “Turing Machines.” Today, we call them computers.

 

Alan Turing: Some people thought we were at war with the Germans. Incorrect. We were at war with the clock.

 

Hugh Alexander: [reading a decrypted message] “… is directed to 53 degrees 24 minutes north and aufpunkt one degree west.”

Hugh Alexander: “Heil Hitler.”

Alan Turing: Turns out that’s the only German you need to know to break Enigma.

 

Stewart Menzies: Burn everything.

Hugh Alexander: Burn? Why?

Stewart Menzies: You were told when you started this was a Top Secret program. Did you think we were joking?

Hugh Alexander: But the war is over.

Stewart Menzies: *This* war is. But there’Il be others.

Alan Turing: And we know how to break a code that everybody else believes is unbreakable.

Stewart Menzies: Precisely. Tear it down, light it up. Sweep away the ashes. None of you have ever met before. None of you have ever even heard the word “Enigma.” Have a safe trip home.

Stewart Menzies: [as they rise to go] Behave. With a bit of luck, you’ll never have to see me or one another again for the rest of your lives…

 

John Cairncross: If you tell them my secret, I’ll tell them yours.

 

Young Alan Turing: What’s that you’re reading?

Christopher Morcom: It’s about cryptography.

Young Alan Turing: Like secret messages?

Christopher Morcom: Not secret. That’s the brilliant part. Messages that anyone can see but no one knows what they mean, unless you have the key.

Young Alan Turing: How’s that different from talking?

Christopher Morcom: Talking?

Young Alan Turing: When people talk to each other, they never say what they mean, they say something else. And you’re expected to just know what they mean. Only I never do. So… How’s that different?

Christopher Morcom: Alan, I have a funny feeling you’re going to be very good at this.

 

Alan Turing: You can’t leave, I won’t let you.

Joan Clarke: I’ll miss you. That’s what a normal person would say in this situation.

Alan Turing: I-I don’t care what is normal!

Joan Clarke: What am I supposed to do, Alan? I will not give up my parents.

Alan Turing: You have an opportunity here to make some actual use of your life!

Joan Clarke: [offended] And end up like you? No thanks. I’m sorry you’re lonely. But Enigma will not save you. Can you decipher that, you fragile narcissist? Or would you like me to fetch your beloved Christopher to help?

 

Commander Denniston: Have you ever won a war, Turing? I have. You know how it’s done? Discipline, order, chain of command. You’re not at university any more, you’re a very small cog in a very large system. And you will do as your commanding officer instructs.

Alan Turing: Who – who is your commanding officer?

Commander Denniston: Winston Churchill. Number 10 Downing Street, London SWI. You have a problem with my decision, you can take it up with him.

 

Peter Hilton: All my friends, they’re making a difference while we just wile away our days, producing nothing! Because of you.

Alan Turing: My machine… will work.

 

Alan Turing: I’m not a spy. I’m… I’m just a mathematician.

Stewart Menzies: I know a lot of spies, Alan. You’ve got more secrets than the best of them.

 

Joan Clarke: [to a convalescing Alan] Why don’t we do a crossword puzzle? It’ll only take us five minutes. Or in your case, six.

 

Joan Clarke: Are you trying to build your universal machine? [Alan looks puzzled] I read your paper at university.

Alan Turing: Is it already being taught?

Joan Clarke: Oh no! I was precocious.

See also

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The Evenings: A Winter’s Tale – Gerard Reve

TEGerard Reve (1923-2006) is considered one of the greatest post-war Dutch authors, and was also the first openly gay writer in the country’s history. His 1947 debut The Evenings was chosen as one of the nation’s 10 favourite books by readers of a leading Dutch newspaper while the Society of Dutch Literature ranked it as the Netherlands’ best novel of all time. It’s been dubbed ‘one of the finest studies of youthful malaise ever written’

Twenty-three-year-old Frits – office worker, daydreamer, teller of inappropriate jokes – finds life absurd and inexplicable. There is a lack of much to do after the War. Meeting friends, going to the cinema and dancing are the only options, if you have enough money. Otherwise there is sitting at home and listening to the radio. He lives with his parents, who drive him mad. He has terrible, disturbing dreams of death and destruction. Sometimes he talks to a toy rabbit.

This is the story of ten evenings in Frits’s life at the end of December, as he drinks, smokes, sees friends, aimlessly wanders the gloomy city streets and tries to make sense of the minutes, hours and days that stretch before him.

Some of our group found it quite boring –  but that’s the point! How do you write a book about boredom that isn’t boring? It was a page-turner because people wanted to see if the protagonist did something daring, like kill someone. Was his adolescence (he’s annoyed with and rude to his parents) delayed by war and occupation? Is the obsession with food a result of previous starvation and rationing?

It’s well-written. The descriptions of the weather are vivid. One person found it quite hypnotic.

Is his teasing s form of flirtation?

That the gay author is the same age as the protagonist and this being his first book, is there a suppressed gay element? For example., the bar upstairs where you have to ring a bell to get in – one assumes it is a casino but there’s dancing but only two women. Is it a clandestine gay bar?

He is obsessed with baldness.

Although not a churchgoer, he knows and quotes his bible.

The cover and feel of the book are pleasing.

All in all, people were pleased that they’d read it though one gave up half way through.

Maybe he should join a book group!

Quotations:

“I work in an office. I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again. That is all”

This afternoon is perhaps worse than others,” he thought. “I have four hours to go till evening.”

“It is,” he thought, “only a quarter to three, but still this day will fill itself like any other.”

“If no one else says anything,” he thought, “I have no choice but to keep talking.”

“I work in an office. I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again. That is all”

“‘All is lost,’” he thought, ‘everything is ruined. It’s ten past three.’”

“will be a day well spent.   This will be no wasted and profitless Sunday.”

Oh but you are becoming quite bald,” he tells one man. Listen Joop, without meaning to be nasty your scalp is really almost bare. It will not be long before you can count your hairs on the fingers of one hand… Do you count the hairs in your comb each morning? If you did you would see that there are more of them each day. Slowly but surely. I would be horrified to know that I was going bald. I would lose all desire to live. But please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean to discourage you.

A loss,” he mumbled softly, “a dead loss.  How can it be?  A day squandered in its entirety.  Hallelujah.

A pity that I have to leave.”  “But where are you going?” his mother asked.  “Well,” he said, “we shall see.”  “So you don’t know where you’re going yet?” she asked, “but you say that you have to leave.”  “The one does not necessarily rule out the other,” Frits said.  “One may need to leave without having to go anywhere.  Those are the cases in which one must go away from somewhere.”  “Stay and have a nice cup of tea,” she said.

“What is the weather like?”  his mother asked.  “Normal,” Frits said, “not so very cold.  “When it’s cold like this,” she said, “I don’t much feel like leaving the house; father and I were planning to go out this evening to Annetje in Haarlem.”  “That’s true,” Frits said, “you told me this morning.”  “What’s it like outside now?” she asked, “is the wind very cold?”  “It’s blowing, but it’s not a cold wind,” Frits said.  “But what do you call cold?” she asked, “is it that humid cold?”  The air is moist,” Frits said, “but the wind is actually quite sultry.”
“Let’s go anyway,” his father said.

“‘The empty hours,’ he murmured, turning away”

“‘I just sit here and don’t do anything,’ he thought”.

Gritting his teeth he watched as the man speared three potatoes from the platter with his own fork. “That is unclean,” he thought, “a violation of every precept. But we stand powerless.”

I’m only waiting for them to hang themselves or beat each other to death. Or set the house on fire. For God’s sake, let it be that. So why hasn’t it happened yet ? But let us not despair. All things come to those who wait.

“The devil take me,” said Frits, “it is a delight to me each and every time. Those reports like: child killed by exploding grenade. Glorious. Deferred suffering from the war. That is always a joy. They always start of so cosily, those reports,” “the seven-year-old son,” he said in an impassive voice, “of the Karels family, agriculturalists in Breda, attempted on Wednesday afternoon to dismantle a small anti-aircraft shell with a claw hammer.”

“What an evening,” he thought, “what an evening. When is it going to end ?”

“There is no going back,” Frits thought. “Let us adopt an impassive or, if need be, even cheerful expression.”

Things take place around us. Yet we barely notice them. We have ears, but we hear not, eyes but do not see.

“I just wish I could figure out when you’re being serious”.

“‘Don’t pay him any mind,’ his father said, ‘he’s only blathering'”.

“‘And now the moment for tears has arrived,’ he thought. His eyes grew moist.” — breaking the hard shell of indifference he tries to maintain

“All in all, it is dreary,” he thought, “most dreary.”

“It is no disaster to be unhappy,” Frits thought, “but how discouraging must it be to know that there is nothing to pin the blame on, outside oneself ?”

“Help us, O eternal one, our God. See us in our distress. From the depths we call to you. Hideous.””

“Deliver me from baldness,” he said, pushing back his hair and examining the hairline. “It is a gruesome infliction.”

The Year is no more, I am alive, I breathe, and I move, so I live… whatever ordeals are yet to come, I am alive.

‘I just sit here and sit here and don’t do a thing,’ he thought. ‘The day’s half over.’ It was a quarter past twelve.

‘Why do I think that way?’ he thought then. ‘What right do I have to be so blasé?’

‘This day was empty,’ Frits thought, ‘I realize that.’

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Sex training in the home; plain talks on sex life covering all periods and relationships from childhood to old age by Hall, Winfield Scott, b. 1861

stith(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Remarkable for its time though obviously rather dated now. Separate beds and sex no more than fortnightly. It ends with eugenics, much in vogue at the time. No mention of homosexuality, though there is a warning that there can be ‘lewd boys’ even at Grammar School.

Quotations:

From what source would you prefer your child to receive his knowledge of the sex functions of life?

THIS?

From the lips of the parents, toward whom he naturally leans for advice, and from whom he has the right to expect love, care, education and preparation for life’s struggle, or

THIS?

Indecent and vulgar stories; 2. Degenerate companions; 3. Advertisements by quack doctors; 4. Signs in toilets advertising quack cures; 5. Drug-store displays of aids to the sexually weak; 6. Quack doctors’ booklets; 7. Suggestive acts at theaters; 8. Vulgar postals and obscene literature.

the mother must gently bathe away the accumulations which adhere to the inner surface. When she bathes the little boy she must draw back the foreskin and carefully wash away that which accumulates and irritates.

Between the age of ten and fifteen the boy possesses the qualities essential to the barbarism of the race. He is barbarically crude, barbarically rude, barbarically vulgar, barbarically blundering and blustering. He glories in war and the chase. He is a hero worshiper. He has no use for girls, even being restive under the mild restraints of his mother.

At fifteen all this is changed. The boy begins to ^^slick up.” He wishes to impress the girls. His rudeness to the girls now disappears and he becomes a society young gentleman.

stith2The child who learns obedience at home is more easily handled at school, and is still held by a strong power under the influence of his mother. After a child has entered his adolescent period and begins to feel the dawning of individuality is no time to teach him obedience. If by that time he has learned the lesson of obedience the tension of government may be loosened and with his own consent he will follow the advice of his parents. If he has not learned it, extra pressure brought to bear upon him is likely only to make him the more restive. He has then passed the age for learning obedience except with the greatest difficulty.

The best and easiest time to tell a child his origin is when a new baby has arrived in the family, and when one day the older child is standing at the bedside looking at the wonderful new baby. Her eyes are full of wonder at the miracle and her heart full of love. She feels the tiny fingers and laughs at the pretty toes, and then in wonder she asks, ^^Where did you get him?” You reply, ”1 am glad you asked, for it is a story that I want to tell you. He grew in mother’s body. God made a room in mother’s body purposely to hold a baby and this room is so arranged that no harm can come to him, but he can get food and air until he has grown big enough to handle and perfectly ready to live.

‘baby was made out of very precious material that is drawn out of the mamma’s blood. So you see, little daughter, why it is that the mother loves her baby so, because she has given her own life blood for it.”

The mature corn plant furnishes good material for teaching sex in plants because the parts are so large and the process so apparent. The tassel that grows on the top of the cornstalk is the father part, i. e., the male organ which develops the pollen or fertilizing substance. The corn silk at the end of the ear of corn is the receiving part of the female organ. One may speak in a general way of the tassels as the father and the silk as the mother. The wind blows the pollen when it is ripe and has fallen and scatters it in the air where it reaches the corn silk and fertilizes it. Without the pollen there would be no kernel of corn at the end of each thread of silk. The kernels on the cob are the seeds for a new generation of plants, the cob is the ovary, or contains the ovaries in which the seeds develop.

Teach the child that the sex apparatus is sacred to the future womanhood or manhood.

Coming once every month, as it does, it is frequently referred to as the monthly period. When a girl really crosses the threshold from girlhood into womanhood, the experience which marks this change is her first monthly period. It happens about the time of the maturing of the first egg that leaves her ovaries. As this egg passes down the ovarian tube into the uterus the uterus is itself modified — more blood flowing through it and the inner lining changing somewhat. After the girl has developed into womanhood there are a number of years, during her unmarried young womanhood, during which the eggs will come down one each month into and through the uterus, or, as mamma used to call it, when she was explaining to her little girl, the little ^mother-room/ or ^mother-nest/ These eggs, not being fertilized, pass out. They are very tiny, so small that one of them could drop through the eye of a cambric needle without touching the sides, so there is no special loss in the passage of one or two ova per month.

^’Listen/’ said his father, *^this big bass that you have caught is a father fish or a male fish. After the mother fish has laid her eggs in her pebble nest the father fish must deposit over those same pebbles the fertilizing fluid from his testicles, or the eggs will not develop. It’s just as necessary for the father fish to deposit the fertilizing fluid as it is for the mother to deposit the eggs in this nest. Both are necessary if new life is to start.”

“They don’t ever castrate boys, do they, father.?”

“No,” said his father, “not these days, but the time was, two thousand years ago, when they castrated boys. That was an age of barbarism, and it was the custom of that barbaric age that when one nation went to war with another the victorious army would batter down the gates or scale the walls of the vanquished city and having gained entrance would massacre the men that had not already fallen in battle and take away the women and children into captivity and sell them into bondage. The boys thus sold into bondage were as a rule castrated, just as Dick the gelding, and for the same purpose really, because they were slave boys and the men who bought them wanted them to be just docile, beasts of burden, easily managed and controlled, so they had them castrated.

In every school, as for example the grammar school, there are a few boys who, misled by some vulgar minded older boys, are taught by those boys to play with their sex organs, irritating and exciting them. This habit, which we call ‘self-abuse,’ seriously interferes with the boy’s development of the manly qualities. He is almost sure to grow into a little namby, pamby sissy boy if he becomes a slave to the habit of self -abuse.

“While a little boy does not lose any fluid, he will, when he gets about fifteen years of age, begin to lose fluid. This fluid which the fifteen-year-old boy loses when he does this act of self -abuse is the fertilizing fluid or semen, which ought to have been retained in his testicles. After it is lost the testicles must prepare some more, and to do that they draw upon the blood of the youth for material from which to build this fertilizing fluid. This makes the blood of the boy thinner and poorer as the weeks and months go by so that he doesn’t develop as big, hard muscles or as active a brain as he would have developed if he had not been the victim of this bad habit.”

The urinary bladder must be emptied every few hours. These little bladders that I have just described usually empty every few weeks, perhaps the period may be a two weeks’ period or it may be four or six weeks with different men; and in the same man under different conditions of life, the length of the period will differ.

“Now, there’s a curious thing about the emptying of these little bladders. When the urinary bladder empties, we are conscious of it before it empties — we are conscious of a *call of nature’ and we consciously prepare for the emptying of the urinary bladder, but these little albumin sacks empty without any warning, and, curiously enough, perhaps wisely planned for on the part of the Creator, they empty right in the middle of the night as a rule. The young man suddenly awakens from sound sleep or perhaps from a restless, dreamy sleep and finds that something is pouring out of his sex organs. The first time that he has this experience, he may wonder if the fluid is from his urinary bladder, but he usually has no difficulty in making up his mind that it is not from the urinary bladder at all. Then he naturally thinks of his sex apparatus and assumes that the fluid comes direct from his testicles. As a matter of fact, only a small portion of it comes from the testicles, most of it is from these little albumin bladders.

Now, during this day, before the emptying of the bladders relieve the tension in the sex organs, the young man is restless and perhaps irritable and lacking in power of concentration. He feels like a caged lion. It is very important for him to understand about this because at such times he is very likely to have his thoughts directed to sex matters. He may even have sensuous thoughts come into his mind. If he harbors these sensuous thoughts he is sure presently to experience sexual excitement or even sex desire, which the young man in his middle teens or we might say any unmarried young man, should carefully avoid. Now here are two simple and practical little rules, my son, that your father and many other men have put to the test, and we want our boys to have the benefit of our experience in this matter.

^^Control the thoughts. — Do not permit the thoughts under such conditions ever to dwell upon sex matters. Always divert them by sheer will power, if necessary

No chivalrous, honorable young gentleman would touch the person of his girl friend with his hands or in any other way subject her to undignified familiarity. He will always be deferential and courteous, protecting her from danger, if necessary by endangering his own life.

One of these diseases called syphilis has been known and feared for ages past. A young man may catch that disease on his first contact with a lewd girl. She may herself have recently caught the disease and may not realize that she has it. One symptom of the disease is sore throat, a peculiar kind of sore throat with white mucous patches. During the time a person has this symptom, the moisture from the lips is as venomous as the poison of a rattlesnake. If a fellow at a public dance, for example, were to kiss such a girl just in fun and have no other physical contact with her than that, a bit of moisture from her lips gaining access to a weather check or ^’chap” on his lip could easily give him that terrible blood disease, syphilis, which would not only wreck his life but might unfit him absolutely and irretrievably for home building and fatherhood. Such a calamity would of course be far worse than death. The usual way in which this terrible disease is caught is in sexual intercourse, but whether caught in that way or in a kiss, the final result is the same.”

‘Why, father, I should think that a person with the mucous patches of syphilis might contaminate a public drinking glass or a public towel so as to make them dangerous for a well person to use.”

^’That is quite true, my son,” said Mr. Brown. “And in several states of the Union the public drinking glass and the public roller towel have been outlawed. Furthermore, now that we are discussing this point of public sanitation, every person who uses a public water closet should take pains to protect himself against touching the seat. This can be easily accomplished by laying strips of toilet paper upon the seat.

There is always the danger that young people after marriage will be influenced by their intimate relationships and license that marriage gives them, to indulge very frequently in sexual intercourse. Some young people carry this to such excess that in a few months the wife is in a condition of neurasthenia and the husband is consciously depleted in his powers and his business efficiency noticeably decreased.

Nature has pretty definitely set the time for these relationships. It is a law of nature that the female has a period of heat periodically. In women this period comes every twenty-eight days and is closely associated with their menstrual period. It may come just before or just after, perhaps both before and after. Now, there can be no question on the part of anyone who has studied the physiology of all the higher animals, including man, that the Creator when he planned man and woman, planned them for sexual intercourse about once a month. At the very upper limit twice a month.

Dr. Dawson and his wife have even occupied separate though adjoining rooms all these years, but I supposed that was because Dr. Dawson was so frequently called out at night in his practice and that this was a device for enabling him to respond to the night call without disturbing Mrs. Dawson/’

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