Maurice – E. M. Forster

Maurice 2Some of us found this book irritating. You want to give Maurice a thorough shake as if to say, ‘Get on with it.’ It only warms up three quarters through with the appearance of Scudder.

It’s written by a master with a sense of the land and the elements and a sense of the mystic – the ladder, for example. But it’s ‘a minor book by a minor author.’

It’s ‘wildly subversive in some ways’ though Gaylib types argued that it could have been powerful if published just after the Wolfenden Committee reported.

Then again, you have to remember that things were very different back then and that its happy ending could be seen as incitement to crime and cause a major row and a court case.

Even after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, many remained in the closet fearing for their careers, especially in work like the Diplomatic Service.

One reviewer said that “Alec as a character is sketchier than the gamekeeper in “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, and his motivations are unclear.” In his essay Class-based Erotics, Rictor Norton suggests that ‘Forster intended the novel to show the democratizing potential of men’s love for men.’ Yet would such love last? Lytton Strachey wrote to Forster, “As you describe it, I should be inclined to diagnose Maurice’s state as simply lust and sentiment — a very wobbly affair; I should have prophesied a rupture after 6 months — chiefly as a result of lack of common interests owing to class differences — I believe even such a simple-minded fellow as Maurice would have felt this — and your Sherwood Forest ending appears to me slightly mythical.”

Isn’t it more the case that “Genuine aristocrats often did fetishise the working-class body, but it never became problematic for them: they simply seized (or paid for) their pleasures from lower class youth (usually in their employment), and seldom sentimentalised the “meaning” or “noble virtue” of such relationships.”

Stephen Donaldson’s article on the “Eroticization of the Working Class” in the Encyclopaedia of Homosexuality, ed. Wayne R. Dynes, 1990, pp. 1405-6 says that: “The psychological roots of the aristocracy’s attraction to the working class have not been systematically examined, but are undoubtedly related to a sense that the upper class (in particular its intellectuals) has lost some of its masculine vitality, has become `effete’, refined, sophisticated, removed from the exercise of physical power, while the (young) males of the lower class are more robust, earthy, grounded, more in touch with their sexuality, more physically aggressive, in short, more macho.”

Norton points out that “If you look at the long-term relationships involving gay men and straight/married men ….you will notice that the married man is the working-class man and the self-identified gay man (whether married or not) is the upper-middle-class man. In other words, the key feature about the relationship is not the difference between the sexual orientation of the two men, but the difference between the classes of the two men. ……working-class men got married as a matter of course: it would be part of their social identity and hardly affects their sexual identity. Marriage has been a foregone conclusion among working-class men, just as marriage is the expected goal for all women regardless of orientation or class. …..many young men and their families have got a decent start in life through the benevolence of their wealthy gay patrons, through an arrangement that was quite satisfactory to all concerned, and which really did not involve “self-hatred” etc.”

Just as it isn’t true that upper class men didn’t necessarily ‘corrupt’ working class men, nor was middle class morality foisted on the lower classes. “…before the pillory was abolished ….the most homophobic spectators were working-class women, and particularly prostitutes. There is a pillory broadside ……..showing such women standing before a molly in the pillory, shouting “Cut it off!” (i.e. castrate him). There really is no evidence at all that homophobia is something that the middle class or upper class somehow “teach” or transmit to the working class.

“Nearly every discussion about cross- class relationships deals specifically with masculine sexuality (whether queer or heterosexual), and any lesbian aspect to this type of relationship is seldom discussed. My own impression is that cross-class relationships are not a very common feature among lesbians, i.e. that most long-term lesbian pairs consist of persons of the same class (even if they are sharply differentiated as a butch/femme pair)….. Edward Carpenter observed that the growth in the number of “comrade-alliances” between women in the late nineteenth century …occurred primarily “among the more cultured classes of women who are working out the great cause of their own sex’s liberation,” i.e. the suffragettes etc., mostly middle class ladies. And unlike middle-class philanthropic men who all too readily formed alliances with working-class “fallen women” or “ragged boys”, these philanthropic ladies seldom mated with the lower class women they lifted up. Perhaps the only markedly cross-class relationship among lesbians are those which are simultaneously cross-race relationships (white middle class with black working class, hardly ever the other way around).

Forester portrays well the internalising of homophobia which poisons the soul: When Maurice goes to public school and hears other boys talk about girls, he realises that his thoughts are not only different, but something to hide. Maurice pretends to be like the other boys while in the back of his mind he desires not women, but men. It is a struggle for Maurice to keep his thoughts to himself and it causes him to disengage from the people around him in fear that they will learn what he really is.

Forester must have got from Carpenter and from the Bloomsbury Group an existentialist type of inward spirituality that contrasted with the established English religion. He sets up an opposition between false religious salvation and true, secular salvation. Ethical and aesthetic truths can be determined by looking into ones own feelings.

When Alec does not take the boat with his brother to the job waiting for him, he chooses to give up salvation in the economic and religious terms of society for individual salvation in a relationship with Maurice–a secular salvation which is mythologized in Mr. Grace’s theory of the sun.

Some have seen symbolism in the name of the prep. schoolmaster Mr. Ducie, a name that implies doubleness or hypocrisy in the sense of “deuce”; it also seem to pun on “Do see!”–the imperative of the teacher laying down society’s rules. The name also recalls Ducie Street, where the Wilcoxes had one of their houses in Howards End. “It all hangs together, he says, “all–and God’s in his heaven, All’s right with the world. Male and Female!

Forster proposes a different kind of creation than procreation. Through a sort of empathetic act, a person can bring life to someone else.

Others see the symbolism of light and darkness. Maurice attends his father’s public school, “Sunnington,” where his darkness is prolonged; and when he arrives at Cambridge, he stands “still in the darkness instead of groping about in it.” But in his second year there Maurice begins to move, meeting Risley–a Cambridge homosexual modelled on Lytton Strachey–who calls himself a “child of light.” Going one night to visit Risley, Maurice literally gropes through the darkness in the hall and enters the room to find Clive Durham, with whom he becomes infatuated: “. . . His heart had lit never to be quenched again.

On his second visit to the hypnotist, after his night with Alec, “the afternoon sun fell through the window upon the roll-top desk. This time Maurice fixed his attention on that.” The hypnotist, however cannot put him into a trance, cannot return him to darkness: “Nothing happened.” Maurice’s inner light is triumphing over the external darkness.

In the last chapter Maurice goes up from the boathouse to tell Clive that he loves his gamekeeper. Clive, who cannot see Maurice in the shadows, “felt that his friend . . . was essential night.” Clive cannot understand or accept Maurice’s love for Alec; it is something dark and obscure. In terms of the positive symbolism of darkness in the novel, however, this “essential night” is the darkness inside the sun, the darkness in which, according to Mr. Grace, God lives.

A house symbolises the state of England before the First World War changes everything. It is already in decline. Maurice is “not [one of] the timorous millions’ who own stuffy little boxes, but never their own souls”. The only house that is described in any detail is Penge, on his first visit to which Maurice has an after dinner conversation with the Durhams and their friends. It was a suburban evening, but with a difference; these people had the air of settling something: they either just had arranged or soon would rearrange England. Yet the gate posts, the roads–he had noticed them on the way up–were in bad repair, and the timber wasn’t kept properly, the windows stuck, the boards creaked. He was less impressed than he had expected with Penge.

The middle classes highest desire seemed to be shelter–continuous shelter–not a lair in the darkness to be reached against fear, but shelter everywhere and always, until the existence of earth and sky is forgotten, shelter from poverty and disease and violence and impoliteness; and consequently from joy; God slipped this retribution in. He saw from their faces, as from the faces of his clerks and partners, that they had never known real joy. Society had catered for them too completely. They had never struggled, and only a struggle twists sentimentality and lust together into love.

The establishment that Maurice rejects was shaped by the public school tradition. Nick Duffell explains that a boarder has to learn: to adapt his young character to survive both the loss of his family and the demands of boarding school culture. The psychological impact of these formative experiences on ……boys who grow up to occupy positions of great power and responsibility cannot be overstated. It leaves them ill-prepared for relationships in the adult world and the nation with a cadre of leaders who perpetuate a culture of elitism, bullying and misogyny affecting the whole of society……100 years ago, when men from such backgrounds led us into a disastrous war; it is familiar, sometimes mocked, but taken for granted. But it is less well known that costly, elite boarding consistently turns out people who appear much more competent than they actually are. They are particularly deficient in non-rational skills, such as those needed to sustain relationships, and are not, in fact, well-equipped to be leaders in today’s world….children survive boarding by cutting off their feelings and constructing a defensively organised self that severely limits their later lives. …….For socially privileged children are forced into a deal not of their choosing, where a normal family-based childhood is traded for the hothousing of entitlement. Prematurely separated from home and family, from love and touch, they must speedily reinvent themselves as self-reliant pseudo-adults……they then struggle to properly mature, since the child who was not allowed to grow up organically gets stranded, as it were, inside them. In consequence, an abandoned child complex within such adults ends up running the show. This is why many British politicians appear so boyish. They are also reluctant to open their ranks to women, who are strangers to them and unconsciously held responsible for their abandonment by their mothers…..Boarding children invariably construct a survival personality that endures long after school and operates strategically. On rigid timetables, in rule-bound institutions, they must be ever alert to staying out of trouble. Crucially, they must not look unhappy, childish or foolish – in any way vulnerable – or they will be bullied by their peers. So they dissociate from all these qualities, project them out on to others, and develop duplicitous personalities that are on the run, which is why ex-boarders make the best spies…..Strategic survival has many styles: bullying is one; others include keeping your head down, becoming a charming bumbler, or keeping an incongruently unruffled smile in place….evidence from neuroscience experts shows what a poor training for leaderships this actually is. In short, you cannot make good decisions without emotional information…..nor grow a flexible brain without good attachments ……nor interpret facial signals if your heart has had to close down ……nor see the big picture if your brain has been fed on a strict diet of rationality

The parson, like some of is modern equivalents: I think, and until all sexual irregularities and not some of them are penal the Church will never reconquer England. (Good!)

ForsterThe author claims: In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad business man and rather a snob.

Maybe Maurice is fitter but they both went to Cambridge.

His parting shot remained true for a long time: the Wolfenden recommendations will be indefinitely rejected, police prosecutions will continue and Clive on the bench will continue to sentence Alec in the dock. Maurice may get off.

Should we admire the author? One commentator suggests not: E. M. Forster is a classic example of the person who is widely known within the sophisticated gay community as a homosexual, and whose name is added with pride to the list of famous names that gay people so eagerly make. Since all such lists are apologetic they are all self-oppressive, but in this case there is particular irony. Throughout his life Forster betrayed other gay people by posing as a heterosexual and thus identifying with our oppressors. The novel which could have helped us find courage and self-esteem he only allowed to be published after his death, thus confirming belief in the secret and disgraceful nature of homosexuality. What other minority is so sunk in shame and self-oppression as to be proud of a traitor? …. Some time ago (we) had the idea that there should be a Closet Queen of the Year award. This could take the form of a small plaster statuette of the Boy David. It would have to be gold-sprayed for Forster, who surely deserves the title of Closet Queen of the Century. The next twenty-five years are unlikely to produce a better candidate.

There is another review of this book from when we discussed it a decade ago here.

return to the home page

Rory’s Boys – Alan Clark

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

This is no great work of literature but it does make a point and has several tragic back stories. It is easy to dismiss old people unless you know their history.

The opening scene, in a gay sauna, is realistic. So is the depiction of people going to waste in an old folks’ home.

I once remember an elderly couple discussing care homes and how even married couples are sometimes spilt up and it would be a good idea if there were gay care homes. (I gather that the first such home opened in Berlin in 2008)

Even for people with plenty of money, the outsourcing by local authorities of care homes means little choice is available.

Many gay men hide their sexuality so people are unaware of their need. As old character explains: ” They were criminals till they were thirty or forty. Some of them have never got the chill of that out of their bones, however cosy things might be now. The shame may have gone, but the embarrassment’s still there like a ball and chain. They learn to drag it around but they never entirely lose it”

To a bigoted bishop who thinks castration is the answer, this man replies: “…he wasn’t a huge fan of God’s. He wasn’t impressed by God’s CV…..God not having turned up for work a few too many times”

He captures accurately two experiences I have also had: I stood on the topmost gallery and looked down on the danc­ers. The body-heat rose and hit you in the face. It was like looking into a cauldron seething with gorgeous grubs, slithering around each other, high as kites on fuck-knows-what……The ghetto stereotypes were all there: the skin-deep machismo of the leather men who probably worked in the fabric department of John Lewis, the pot-bellied bears with their beards and tats, the shaven-headed, anorexic waifs, the screamers in eye-liner. Every one of them instantly flagged their sexuality to the world and his wife without embarrassment, defiant in their right to be respected. And wasn’t that exactly what my lot had battled for? Why should I be jealous of that? Fuck it. I still deserved a place here. I’d earned it…….I headed for the exit via the loos. The urinals were crowded. ……when a gruff voice murmured in my ear. `Shame to waste that mate.’ A big leather guy beside me had pushed an empty half-pint beer mug under my cock. ……I watched my warped reflection pissing into the beer mug, chipping away at my very soul. `Cheers mate,’ he said.

I don’t think he can get away with using the word ‘Paki’ and ‘nigger’ in 2011.

His description of the homophobic views of an African bishop is only a slight caricature.

I didn’t know what ‘nixed tea’ was – apparently it is some sort of herbal concoction.

I’m not one for grace before meals but I did like: .He bowed his head and began what was possibly the first grace ever spoken over cod and chips on a Southwark Council bench. It wasn’t a short one either. Frankie not only thanked God for what we were about to receive, he also thanked the fishermen who’d risked their lives on the deep and the farmers who’d planted the spuds.

I liked the description of the cruisey part of Hampstead Heath: I suppose it’s the unfortunates who go there?’ she asked. ones who’ve not found anybody?’ I shrugged as if I didn’t know. I didn’t want to disabuse her that notion, to tell her that lots of nice respectable people found places like this unbelievably exciting, a brief liberation from lives inhibited by conscience, religion, partners or wives. Nor was I going to tell her that some regarded it as an untouchable part of their human rights, a grubby Mecca to which every self-respecting gay had to make at least one pilgrimage. I wasn’t sure she’d be able to grasp the sophistication of that argument just after she’d had, presumably, her first glimpse of fellatio and been up to her knees in used johnnies.

Talking about being thrown out by parents: if you’re thrown over the cliff, you can either fall or fly. I flew. And the more you fly, the stronger you get.’ (Then the juke box plays ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings.’ – this is an uncanny prediction of an event at the end of the book)

A dentist criticising someone else’s work: The mouth is like a magic garden from which spring the fruits of civilized thought, the words of poetry and passion, the sound of sweet music. What a shame if the garden gates are grubby, uneven or coming off their hinges. We’ll talk later.

A loose end – Rory looses his car keys in a thunderstorm. The next day he drives his car away without having found his keys.

And we all know places like this: Whatever the village might once have been, it had forgotten long ago. Perched on a bluff above a winding, unpretentious river, the Chilterns crumpled on the eastern horizon, it ought to have been appealing, the apple of an estate agent’s eye. There was a decent Norman church, a sprinkling of thatched cottages, even a Georgian manor house mentioned in Pevsner. But it was blighted by a thirties council estate, bus-shelters doused in graffiti and a playground with peeling swings, where hard-faced young moth­ers smoked their fags while their kids screamed expletives in competition with the birdsong.

Some telling comments:

Of a young doctor, `’He was Mother Teresa with an arse to die for.”

After an apology to a clergyman, `’He forgave me with that irritating condescension which makes you want to kill believers in anything”.

The narrator’s first encounter with his daughter, `’As I glugged the whisky, I felt a sudden easing, as if some tiny muscle inside which has been in spasm for years had relaxed itself.”

The author doesn’t know much about women’s bodies, writing as he does about a ‘clitoral fart’. Maybe he means ‘fanny fart.’

Towards the end, a few skeletons tumble out of their closets.

return to the home page

Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan

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

This book is somewhat of a culture shock for me. A nursery school teacher tells a boy that he is gay despite his only being four years old. A school where a footballer wears drag to lessons. Boys dating each other while only fourteen years of age? A gay-friendly town where PFLAG is as popular as the PTA? That disaffiliates from the Boy Scouts when they refuse gay officers? Is it all some fantasy?

Parents who welcome their son’s boyfriend when he brings him flowers. A little sister who goes to be on time instead of nagging to be allowed to stay up late in their parents’ absence.

Maybe it’s a sort of antidote to the boy who commits suicide in Patty Griffin’s song “Tony”, whichthe author mentions in his acknowledgements.

I loved the notion that ‘bisexual’ didn’t means ‘divided’ but ‘doubled’.

A fantasy world? Well, not that we have gay marriage, perhaps the world will change once we have religious fundamentalists off our backs. And the author accurately portrays the immediacy and earnestness of teenage emotions and yearnings. As he said, in an interview, ‘You don’t have to write a book in order to reflect reality. You can also write a book to create reality. Most teen readers, I found, understood this, because they were living their lives to create reality, not merely reflect it….. and miserablism are no longer prerequisites for writing queer YA’

return to the home page

The Night Swimmer – J. Olshan

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

When someone jumps in front of a train, the event ricochets through time, not just for the suicide’s loved ones but for all the people on the train and their loved ones.

I liked the term ‘sexual stations of the cross’ to describe the passionate movement of lovers through a house.

Though I don’t normally like dogs, I loved Casey.

The proofreader could have done a better job – ‘stories’ when ‘storeys’ was meant.

I had to look up ‘tamale’ – used to describe a (usually female) dancer.

By sheer coincidence, the day I read p. 207 about the heads of ticks, if embedded in the brain, can cause a heart attack, I read in a newspaper that a child had been sent by a doctor to a vet in order top have one removed since the GP didn’t have equipment small enough.

return to the home page

Senseless – Paul Golding

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

As in his previous book, the author has a wide vocabulary and an artful turn of phrase, e.g. nacreous = mother-of-pearl, clavicle = collar bone, amputated from recollection.

There’s a vivid description of a posh gay nightclub that plays classical music called The Moonlight. I have heard of a club just like this but under a different name.

I liked the judicious use of Yiddish and Polari. Air stewards are sometimes called ‘trolley dollies’ but ‘cart tarts’ is a new one.

There’s an excruciating, vivid description of an S & M scene involving the use of metal catheter rods. I felt very vulnerable reading this, especially just before going to bed and hoping not to encounter the episode again in my dreams.

He takes us back to the early days of AIDS when many dentists wouldn’t treat people who were HIV + and when telling someone that they’d lost weight was no longer considered to be a compliment. People were scared of ice cubs in their drinks for fear of contracting pneumonia from the water.

The author appears to have grown up when he tells the story of his partner living with AIDS: Reviewing that time, I would describe the detachment of Matthew’s retina as an important landmark — important for both of us. In his case, it proved beyond physical doubt that which, until now, had been open to mental denial: the premature beginning of his premature mortality. In mine, it proved some­thing other — less brutal, less futile, and less immediate in the fathoming. Hitherto I had amounted to a ravel of contrasts, to a tangle without rhyme or rationale, to a mish-mash of advantages and handicaps. I had muddled through my changing stages guised as a figment, not a character, and existed in a state of mounting contradiction, until, far from having grown mature, I had merely grown extreme, become the personification of an oxymoron: strongly weak, politely rude, cleverly stupid. I defied straightforward definition. Little wonder that I should have seemed, and felt myself, incapable of making a straightforward living. Then came the retina thing, the watershed which was to induce a great, but gradual, alteration in my being. … and I would think about the thought of blindness; and I would shut my eyes. And I would stumble in the shambles. I would find myself unable to get far, even in my own, familiar surroundings. I couldn’t engineer a corridor without reaching out for the wall. I couldn’t pick the proper key for the front door. I couldn’t dial the telephone – not by touch alone. I couldn’t strip a new CD of its cellophane. I couldn’t light a cigarette. I couldn’t set the microwave. I became useless. But I could cheat, needless to say: I could peer for an illicit second, as if peering from beneath the darkness of some sadomasochistic blindfold. Why? To glean the things that might need to be known if things went wrong.

The descriptions are very moving. Apart from one nurse, the National Health Service comes off badly: You’ve heard of false alarms. This was almost one. I rang the e for Hivvies, to ask them to bleep Nilson, but Click: recorded answer: The clinic is now closed; please try our central switchboard. I tried. No-one replied. I phoned Enquiries. I jotted down the number for Casualty; dialled Engaged. Engaged again. And then, in one of those brainwaves that can sometimes tempt you to believe in higher powers, I suddenly remembered the name of an eye-hospital where the Find had operated in the antediluvian past, before the floods. …. They had stuck him in a women’s ward — no beds on the men’s side; but still: better for the likes of us to be amid a gaggle of buttoned-up grannies than among a bunch of ancient codgers with their goolies hanging out of their pyjamas….On no account should he go on his back. Matthew said: Doggie-position here we come. I said: Needs must. Matthew said: Devil drives. The nurse said: Would you keep your voices down; you’re in a ladies’ ward, if you don’t mind. I asked how long this posturing lark was meant to last. Procedure, she snapped, and reckoned – assuming that no complications cropped up at the halfway check-up – that it took three weeks on average. Matthew went: Christ. I went quiet. (Three weeks? Didn’t she know about the Hivvy stuff? How was Matthew meant to get to the clinic for his infusions of Ganciclovir?)… I asked about last night. Average. He’d woken up with cramp and tried to walk about, but felt so stoned (because of his sleeping tablets) that he’d been forced to ring for help. Fat chance. The nurse had been busy chatting on the phone about some backpacking trip somewhere….. Because Matthew was feeling lousy, and his patience was running out. Hadn’t they done enough tests? Hadn’t they taken enough blood? . . . So, why couldn’t someone come up with some sort of result? Nilson purported to be expecting feedback any day now I pointed out that Matthew had been hearing about Any Day Now for nearly a month.

You’re clearly better off out of hospital then in, wherever possible: Outside — never mind the racket and the squalor and the drizzle and the stink of fries — outside was paradise. Matthew’s mobility, because he’d been laid-up so long, was, admittedly, on the dodgy side — shuffly; and his breathing sounded tired; and his eyes weren’t up to much. But I had an arm, and he had a smile, and we were off (come hell or high water, Captain) to my flat ­where, within forty-eight hours, things looked, even if not all beautiful, brighter. His appetite was on the mend (he was want­ing special milkshakes, packed with vitamins and calories); his energy was on the rise (he was forcing himself to move about); he was back to his usual whims and usual gags (time for my bath — and no peeping, Captain); he was sleeping without tablets, or sweats, or nightmares; even his sight seemed to have improved marginally. Over breakfast, he would tilt his head enquiringly, and conclude that Yup, peripheral flashes had to be better than total darkness — in the light of which I wasn’t about to wonder whether this unforeseen revival resulted from Matthew’s resumption of Ganciclovir or his rupture with Hospitality.

His partner retains his sense of humour. When told he has a detached retina, he jokes about he prefers detached with swimming pool to semi-detached.

The expertise of some carers: Next, Matthew did a thing which moved me so powerfully that I could hardly bear to admire it, but Connor must have seen something coming, because he dealt with it sublimely. Matthew ran his enquiring palms along the nurse’s arms, and inward from the stranger’s shoulders to his clavicles, and now, the better to envis­age that youthful face, began to sculpt around — thumbs under jawline, indices over eyebrows, fingers all over the puzzle. Connor bowed, to help with the charting of this facial map. But Matthew went still further: he felt up for that pastoral head of hair, roughed it, and, after dealing it a pat, mumbled: Now I can picture you in my mind Connor said: That’s to be encouraged, but don’t be tiring yourself now With which, he restored Matthew’s hands to the place where he had found them, on his chest, and gently folded them across each other….Time to import a catheter. This was the bit which I found hardest. I couldn’t bear to note how Matthew’s penis had regressed, how it had shrivelled back to an infant’s bud. Nor could I bear to admit that I, who had vowed to protect his dignity, was now, in my perfidy, permitting such denigrating invasions to be carried out. Connor told me that it was all for the best, that this was men’s stuff; so I told Connor that the men’s stiff was precisely what riled me. My boy had, in his dam been well-endowed. Now he looked reduced to (scarcely a penis at all, but) some clitoral travesty, some hormonal mishap

My ideal for a relationship where both parties keep their individuality: Dreamily, sporadically, we discussed the possibility of joining domestic forces in a manner which, while befitting our mutual dependence, would equally suit our independent styles. We even considered buying a couple of flats — adjacent, so that nei­ther of us would need to feel hampered, but with an internal layout whose very unorthodoxy matched our outward stand­ing. My personal preference was for a sole, interconnecting door (a secret panel, inserted, say, in a bookcase somewhere) through which we could conduct our forbidden passion with­out recourse to the public landing.

An unpleasant thing about clerics: Fr Dudley arrived, wreathed in that special clerical blend of incense and stale armpit

He is right to be pedantic as in: Yet, rather than ignore this irritating usage of an adjective as adverb, I would bristle and rebuke him: Wrong — he was (not Good, but) Well.

There some amusing phrases such as, ‘Is the Pope a catheter?’ but also some annoying ones such as a habit, on almost every page, of writing a (but not X) was b. e.g. : a one-way ticket to Paris (not France but) Texas.What I, meanwhile, had to do was look (not on the bright side, but) about. Galvanize myself.

And in to adjacent sentences: He suggested that I (not write, but) type the result. The finished product should look like a (not coercive, but) collaborative exercise.

He is also fond of using quotations from dictionaries, such as, when someone is talking crap’ = ordure

I had to look up exequial (= relating to a funeral.)

I liked his invention of the word `Greige’ – old men seem to have a habit of wearing grey and/or beige clothes.


“they awarded themselves the bonus of white Colombian granules chopped to finest powder with the cutting edge of credit cards which were still, then, the preserve of the financially smart – granules which, once aligned at a sharp diagonal along the lid of the pan, were snorted up through a tightly-rolled banknote of freshly-minted £50.”

Yet despite my outward shabbiness, I came well groomed, came interlined in pristine cash: 600 well-earned pounds, three-score tenners precisely, which I remember spreading like the scalloped wing of a period fan upon the patina of my hopeful future, the result of my hopeless past.’

“…worrying less about whom I was screwing than about things that I wanted for Matthew. I knew what I could bring to him: my loyalty and my love. I knew what I had promised him: dignity and laughter. But I also knew what was beyond me to provide.”
“We drank a nightcap. We shared the bed. We wore T-shirts and underpants. We slept the sleep of close companions. Stainless and becalming.”

‘He wore brown paisley socks with his black Levis, which – sorry – a queen would never do.’


return to the home page