Carol – Patricia Highsmith

CarolThis is not the sort of book that I normally read and it didn’t hold my attention but I was glad to read it, because our group chose it, as something different to broaden my horizons.

It is more about falling in love than about having sex.

The opening scene, where they meet in the department store, is ‘quite electric’, said one member.

The detached and sparse way in which she writes, said another, translates well into film.

The writer, who normally writes crime novels, couldn’t hold back the sense of threat, always making is feel on edge.

The moving, vivid road trip made one member get out his atlas to follow the route.

The power dynamics change as Therese grows in confidence. We get a hint of this early on when Carol discovers that she isn’t just a shop assistant but she does set design.

Compare this with the depressing The Well of Loneliness which was written 23 years earlier. Here we get a happy ending, which was still unusual for its time. It covers ground that hasn’t been dealt with much before and the women wouldn’t know how to make the moves.

We see the murky world of private detectives which was so much to the fore in those days. Also, who gets custody of the children – than still happens now, as does the notion many men have that this is just a ‘phase’.

Carol 4.jpgThis was written back in 1952 under a different title and a pseudonym, The price of Salt.

Quotations:

“She tried to keep her voice steady, but it was pretense, like pretending self-control when something you loved was dead in front of your eyes. They would have to separate here.”

“It was easy, after all, simply to open the door and escape. It was easy, she thought, because she was not really escaping at all.”
“I think friendships are the result of certain needs that can be completely hidden from both people, sometimes hidden forever.”
Carol 2“Carol raised her hand slowly and brushed her hair back, once on either side, and Therese smiled because the gesture was Carol, and it was Carol she loved and would always love. Oh, in a different way now, because she was a different person, and it was like meeting Carol all over again, but it was still Carol and no one else. It would be Carol, in a thousand cities, a thousand houses, in foreign lands where they would go together, in heaven and in hell.”
“She was conscious of the moments passing like irrevocable time, irrevocable happiness, for in these last seconds she might turn and see the face she would never see again.”
“My little orphan,” Carol said.

Therese smiled. There was nothing dismal, no sting in the word when Carol said it.”
“Don’t you know I love you?’ Carol said.”
“Kick me out, she thought. What was in or out? How did one kick out an emotion?”
“She knew what bothered her at the store. It was the sort of thing she wouldn’t try to tell Richard. It was that the store intensified things that had always bothered her, as long as she could remember. It was the waste actions, the meaningless chores that seemed to keep her from doing what she wanted to do, might have done—and here it was the complicated procedures with money bags, coat checkings, and time clocks that kept people even from serving the store as efficiently as they might—the sense that everyone was incommunicado with everyone else and living on an entirely wrong plane, so that the meaning, the message, the love, or whatever it was that each life contained, never could find its expression. It reminded her of conversations at tables, on sofas, with people whose words seemed to hover over dead, unstirrable things, who never touched a string that played. And when one tried to touch a live string, looked at one with faces as masked as ever, making a remark so perfect in its banality that one could not even believe it might be subterfuge. And the loneliness, augmented by the fact one saw within the store the same faces day after day, the few faces one might have spoken to and never did, or never could. Not like the face on the passing bus that seems to speak, that is seen once and at least is gone forever.”
“Therese had read about that special pleasure people got from the fact that someone they loved was attractive in the eyes of other people, too. She simply didn’t have it.”

“Then Carol slipped her arm under her neck, and all the length of their bodies touched fitting as if something had prearranged it. Happiness was like a green vine spreading through her, stretching fine tendrils, bearing flowers through her flesh. She had a vision of a pale white flower, shimmering as if seen in darkness, or through water. Why did people talk of heaven, she wondered”
“Carol looked at her, as if really seeing her for the first time that evening, and under her eyes that went from her face to her hands in her lap, Therese felt like a puppy Carol had bought at a roadside kennel, that Carol had just remembered was riding beside her.”
“She envied him. She envied him his faith there would always be a place, a home, a job, someone else for him. She envied him that attitude.”
“One’s just supposed to conform. I know what they’d like, they’d like a blank they could fill in. A person already filled in disturbs them terribly.”
“It was the pointless actions, the meaningless chores that seemed to keep her from doing what she wanted to do, might have done – and here it was the complicated procedures with moneybags, coat checkings, and time clocks that kept people even from serving the store as efficiently as they might – the sense that everyone was incommunicado with everyone else and living on an entirely wrong plane, so that the meaning, the message, the love, or whatever it was that each life contained, never could find its expression. It reminded her of conversations at tables, on sofas, with people whose words seemed to hover over dead, unstirrable things, who never touched a string that played. And when one tried to touch a live string, looked at one with faces as masked as ever, making a remark so perfect in its banality that one could not even believe it might be subterfuge. And the loneliness, augmented by the fact one saw within the store the same faces day after day, the few faces one might have spoken to and never did, or never could. Not like the face on the passing bus that seems to speak, that is seen once and at least is gone for ever. She”
“The headwaiter said something to her in the foyer, and she told him, “I’m looking for somebody,” and went on to the doorway. She stood in the doorway, looking over the people at the tables in the room where a piano played.”
“How indifferent he was to Carol after, all, Therese thought. She felt he didn’t see her, as he sometimes hadn’t seen figures in rock or cloud formations when she had tried to point them out to him.”
“What was it to love someone, what was love exactly, and why did it end or not end? Those were the real questions, and who could answer them.”
“Finally, Carol said in a tone of hopelessness, “Darling, can I ask you to forgive me?”

The tone hurt Therese more than the question. “I love you, Carol.”

“But do you see what it means?”
“Though all we have known is only a beginning.”
“and wished with all her power to wish anything, that the woman would simply continue her last words and say, “Are you really so glad to have met me? Then why can’t we see each other again? Why can’t we even have lunch together today?” Her voice was so casual, and she might have said it so easily.”
“When she stood up, the woman was looking at her with the calm gray eyes that Therese could neither quite face nor look away from.”
“Was life, were human relations like this always, Therese wondered. Never solid ground underfoot. Always like gravel, a little yielding, noisy so the whole world could hear, so one always listened, too, for the loud, harsh step of the intruder’s foot.”
“She envied him. She envied him his faith that there would always be a place, a home, a job, someone else for him. She envied him that attitude. She almost resented his having it.”
“world comes to realize what I felt going up the hill, then there’ll be a kind of right economy of living and of using and using up. Do you know what I mean?” Dannie had clenched his fist, but his eyes were bright as if he still laughed at himself. “Did you ever wear out a sweater”
Carol 3.jpgThe Daily Telegraph gives some background.

When Highsmith’s book was published in 1952, it was considered to be one of the first novels with a gay theme that had a happy ending. At the time, homosexuals in fiction, Highsmith wrote, “had to pay for their deviation by cutting their wrists, drowning themselves in a swimming pool, or by switching to heterosexuality … or by collapsing – alone and miserable and shunned – into a depression equal to hell.”

Highsmith – who was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1921, and also wrote The Talented Mr Ripley (published 1955) – took many of the novel’s key elements from her own life. In December 1948, two years before the publication of her first novel, Strangers on a Train, the writer found herself so hard up she had to take a temporary job in the toy department of Bloomingdale’s (the model for the depressing fictional department store Frankenberg’s).

One day, a stunning older woman dressed in a mink coat walked into the shop and bought a doll for one of her daughters, leaving behind her name and delivery details. That night, in a white heat of inspiration, Highsmith went home and wrote out the plot for the novel.

“I see her the same instant she sees me, and instantly, I love her,” she wrote in her journal. “Instantly, I am terrified, because I know she knows I am terrified and that I love her.”

As she worked on the novel, she relived one of her most passionate love affairs, with the wealthy American socialite Virginia Kent Catherwood, whom she had first met in New York in 1944. The daughter of A. Atwater Kent, the inventor and radio manufacturer, Virginia had led a gilded life of finishing schools and high society parties. Her debutante ball, in December 1933, was said to be the most lavish party

Philadelphia had seen since since the Depression. Her wedding to the rich banker Cummins Catherwood in Bryn Mawr was extensively covered by the newspapers, and on return from honeymoon the couple lived in a 20-room mansion equipped with garaging for four cars and a swimming pool. Although the couple had a daughter, the romance was short lived, and they divorced in April 1941.

It seems Cummins discovered – and was appalled by – his wife’s homosexuality. As Ann Clark, one of Highsmith’s other lovers, wrote to me when I was researching my biography, “Pat only told me the story once, but apparently Virginia lost custody of her child after a recording made in a hotel room and exposing a lesbian affair was played in court. Of course there is something of this tale in The Price of Salt.”

Indeed, as Highsmith wrote the book, she became increasingly anxious there were too many parallels between Virginia and the character Carol Aird. “I worry that Ginnie may feel Carol’s case too similar to her own,” she noted in her diary in 1950.

Highsmith’s relationship with Virginia only lasted for a year, between 1946 and 1947, but the liaison was intense. The rich, glamorous woman gave her a “oneness” and a “timelessness” that allowed her to enter into a fertile state of creativity, she said. She was, Highsmith wrote in her journals, the “other half of the universe”, and “together we make a whole.”

However, when the relationship broke down – Virginia was an even heavier drinker than Pat and would sometimes attack her with her fists – Highsmith was left feeling psychologically disturbed. “I am troubled by a sense of being several people,” she wrote. “Should not be at all surprised if I become a dangerous schizophrenic in my middle years.”

For six months from November 1948, Highsmith underwent a course of therapy to “get myself into a condition to be married,” as she had started a relationship with the novelist Marc Brandel, son of the British writer John Davys Beresford. The therapy – destined to failure – cost $30 a week, about half the total she was earning from her job penning comic books, and so she had to take a position at Bloomingdale’s in New York.

It was here that Highsmith glimpsed a glamorous married woman, Kathleen Senn, who also inspired the character of Carol. The writer became so obsessed with this mysterious figure that she took a train out to the woman’s house in New Jersey. “For the curious thing yesterday, I felt quite close to murder too,” she wrote, “as I went to see the woman who almost made me love her when I saw her a moment in December, 1948.”

In June 1949, after the breakdown of the relationship with Brandel, Highsmith travelled to Europe to stay at the London home of her British publisher Dennis Cohen, founder of the Cresset Press. Here, Pat fell in love with Dennis’s beautiful wife, Kathryn, who worked as a doctor at St George’s Hospital. Sophisticated and intelligent, Kathryn had been born in America and had worked both as an actress and, briefly, as Aneurin Bevan’s secretary.

During a two-week stay at the Cohens’ house in Old Church Street, Chelsea, Highsmith confessed to her about her tumultuous emotional life and her perceived hormonal problems. “If you were added up,” Kathryn told her, “I think you’d have a little more on the male side – from your reactions to men I mean.”

From London, Highsmith travelled to Paris, and then Italy, from where she wired Kathryn begging for her to join her. The two women met in Naples in September 1949, where they embarked on a short affair. “I feel I am in love with her, really,” Highsmith wrote in her diary after she had returned to America, “as I have not been with anyone, anything like this, since Ginnie.” The relationship, she knew, was doomed – Kathryn returned to her husband, and later, in early 1960, the 54-year-old woman killed herself by taking an overdose of barbiturates.

Suicide and premature death haunted Highsmith’s life like a dark spectre. One lover, Allela Cornell, drank nitric acid, suffering a long and painful death in 1946. In 1953, Highsmith left another lover, Ellen Hill, to attempt suicide after a blazing row (Hill lapsed into a coma but survived).

Following sporadic treatment for her alcoholism, Virginia Kent Catherwood died in 1966 at the age of 51. And, perhaps most poignantly of all, Kathleen Senn – the woman whom Highsmith glimpsed in Bloomingdale’s – killed herself by carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage of her home in October 1951.

Initially, Highsmith envisioned the ending of The Price of Salt to be tragic, with Therese and Carol parting and leading separate lives. But then she showed her agent a more positive version and was persuaded to go with the alternative, in which the women get back together.

Highsmith was conscious of the irony that, while in fiction she could imagine a positive ending for her characters, in real life she had no such luck herself. As she wrote in her diary in early 1951, “Oh, I write a book with a happy ending, but what happens when I find the right person?”

The author – who died in 1995, at the age of 74 – continued to enjoy relationships with a number of women, some of whom were married, throughout her life. Yet these liaisons were defined as much by their underlying tensions and sense of psychological unease as by their passions. “O who am I?” she wrote in her notebook in 1951. “Reflections only in the eyes of those who love me.”

 Return to the home page

Querelle

Quer 2This is one of Fassbinder’s few films shot in English. The film derives from Jean Genet’s book, although the author would be surprised to see a video arcade, decades before its invention, in this adaptation. But such anachronistic shocks (there are others) are as intention as Fassbinder’s revolutionary extremes, even for him, image and sound: as he states, on a title card in the opening credits, this is a film about Genet’s novel, not a mere pasteurisation. Fassbinder captures the fever-dream quality of Genet’s decadent prose poetry, through his impossibly garish lighting and bizarre sets (how many forts boast ten-foot-tall phalluses as both strategic defence barriers and ornamentation). But more than Genet, this picture is unmistakably Fassbinder.

Plot:

French sailor Querelle arrives in Brest and starts frequenting a strange whorehouse. He discovers that his brother Robert is the lover of the lady owner, Lysiane. Here, you can play dice with Nono, Lysiane’s husband : if you win, you are allowed to make love with Lysiane, if you lose, you have to make love with Nono… Querelle loses on purpose.

One day, Lysiane reads the tarot for her lover, Robert , and learns in the cards of his intense passion for his brother, Querelle. Querelle himself soon arrives, and the brothers enact a bizarre greeting halfway between a hug and a wrestling match. Querelle, it seems, is looking for partners in a drug deal; Robert points him in the right direction. An argument about the merits of sex between men soon leads Querelle to murder his fellow smuggler, Vic. Back at the whorehouse, Querelle loses on purpose to Nono and finds he has a taste for passive gay sex. Meanwhile, fellow sailor Gil, who looks exactly like Querelle’s brother (and is played by the same actor), murders one of his compatriots after the brute publicly impugns his manhood. Wanted by the police for both his own crime and Querelle’s, Gil goes on the run.

When Querelle deals drugs with Nono, he is reunited with his rivalrous brother, Robert – the current boytoy of Nono’s wife, Madame Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau). Lysiane is smitten by Querelle from the moment he enters the brothel. The ship’s captain, Seblon (Franco Nero), is also smitten by Querelle and delivers long erotic monologues into his tape recorder.

Origins:

This is a surrealistic adaptation of writer and thief Jean Genet’s novel Querelle de Brest by avant-garde German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Ambience:

The very artificial set is always bathed in a warm red glow, and is dotted with castle towers that are, literally, shaped like penises. The hell-like atmosphere oozes homo-eroticism at every turn, and every character is defined by his sexuality. One gets the impression that Fassbinder was trying to depict his favourite wet dream on celluloid. While obviously the work of a once-brilliant artist, many incoherent scenes suggest that the director’s drug-use was taking its toll.

Part of the blame can be assigned to Genet’s novel, a work which does not lend itself easily towards cinematic adaptation. Attempts to infuse Genet’s poetic language into the film bogs the storyline down with title cards and intrusive narration. This even seeps into the dialogue. For example, Querelle whispers to Seblon that “afterwards I may rest across your thighs, as a pieta, and you will watch over me as Mary watches over the dead Jesus.” Adding to this aura of seriousness is a baritone choir dominating the soundtrack. The action in Querelle moves at a snail’s pace.

Visually, the late Brad Davis is perfect as Querelle. Davis was handsome, in a Montgomery Clift mode, while resembling rough trade. He spends most of the film wearing skin tight white clothes, his large hairy chest continually on display through a sweeping tank top. Almost every shot is a pose, like a Tom of Finland drawing that has come to life. It’s hard to judge his acting, or anyone’s for that matter, because the film is often badly dubbed. Franco Nero comes off the best in a movie filled with lifeless performances. Jeanne Moreau, a longtime diva of European cinema, resembles an old drag queen doing Bette Davis.

Moreau singing Oscar Wilde’s Ballad Of Reading Gaol. In a scene of repressed intimacy, the sound of dripping water conjures up a visceral likeness of lovemaking. Multiple voiceovers not only layer the story but openly invite us to view characters in a specific way. The religious or operatic connotations of an a cappella choir encourage a mythical reading beyond the merely human or specific.

Fassbinder’s images glow – and melt hetero movie mythology. He shoots within the labyrinthine walls, studded with penis-shaped edifices, of a highly artificial backlot set – decorated with vulgar graffiti and graphic Kama-Sutra-style etchings of sex acts. Such tactics, like the voice-over narration, the fade-to-white inter-titles, the Jean Genet epigraph, distance the spectator. Fassbinder harkens back to German Expressionist filmmaking and Brechtian Epic Theatre to bare the oppressive ideology determining narrative structures.

 This is Fassbinder’s sole film, and the only one by any filmmaker which comes to mind, featuring two distinct – and at times even combative – voice-over narrators; and you could even argue that there is yet a third narrative voice. This one appears at key moments, and consists of printed quotations which range from the classical historian Plutarch (in a moving passage about the honor of gay soldiers in the ancient world, who wanted to face their fellow soldiers/lovers as they died in battle – some countries today take a rather different view of same-sex oriented servicemembers) to Genet himself (in an actual manuscript page from Genet – which the “omniscient” voice-over narrator translates into English – in which he purports to be the actual Querelle: since Genet was both an artist and a professional con-man and thief, we need not take his confession too literally). Pasolini used a similar ‘bibliographic’ technique in his notorious last film, Salò, which was one of Fassbinder’s list of the ten greatest films ever made.

Religious imagery

Quer 3Rings feature a great deal, presumably for their religious connotations but also for the binding they represent cf. the recurring images of the seaman’s rope, chains, rosaries, pieces of clothing, blankets, and a whole series of repeated patterns by which Genet represents the binding together of men.

The dominant colour in QUERELLE is orange.  Orange is also the colour most commonly used to depict the god Bacchus (or, in the Greek pantheon Dionysus) who inter alia was the god of fertility.  As the mid-point between yellow and red, orange also represents the balance between spirit and libido.  Fassbinder sometimes darkens the shade of orange, indicating a shift towards the libido, or lust; sometimes it lightens, towards yellow, indicating divine love.

Another duality, this time black and white, is applied to Querelle’s personality as depicted through his clothes.  He is often seen in his white sailor’s uniform, representing innocence and purity, sometimes with his dark naval coat worn over it, and in one sequence is covered head to foot in coal dust, the primeval antithesis of white.

A frequent setting is decorated with vulgar graffiti and graphic Kama-Sutra-style etchings.

In Genet’s book, Lieutenant Seblon’s warship lies anchored in the Roads off Brest, and his longing for Georges Querelle mounts with each day; yet no sooner has the able-bodied seaman rebutted his advances on the grounds that he is suffering from a dose of clap, than the lieutenant’s vivid vision of ‘an ulcerated penis’ becomes instantly linked with that of ‘a guttering Easter candle to which five grains of incense had become encrusted.’ The passage is highly characteristic: the ideal Genet reader must have both a strong stomach and a taste for religious imagery that is heavily baroque. St Theresa of Avila’s delight when the angel plunged a golden dart into her and the assault left her aflame with Divine Love is an experience that Genet fully understands.

Querelle whispers to Seblon that “afterwards I may rest across your thighs, as a pieta, and you will watch over me as Mary watches over the dead Jesus.”

Earlier, a scene where a young man portrays Christ carrying his cross, leading a procession, is followed by the murder and blood-letting. Some sort of stonement?

On the last page, the madam of a brothel dreams of her lovers and sees them all united as one—`They is singing.’ Would it be too far-fetched to see in that use of is a development of the doctrine that in Christ ‘we are all one’?

 Plaudits or otherwise:

Critically derided even by many of Fassbinder’s admirers, Querelle earned a Golden Raspberry award for Worst “Original” Song for “Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves,” an Oscar Wilde poem set to music by Peer Raben and sung repeatedly by Jeanne Moreau.

One juror resigned after releasing the following statement: “I would love to make a personal statement. While being President of the Jury, I would love to express my disappointment in not having been able to convince my colleagues to place R.W. Fassbinder’s ‘Querelle’ among the winners. As a matter of fact, I’ve found myself alone in defending the movie. Nevertheless, I keep on thinking that, although controversial, R.W. Fassbinder’s final movie, want it or not, love it or hate it, will one day find its place in the history of cinema”.

one of the “gayest” films in cinema history

Critical opinions on the film differed. Andy Warhol told Fassbinder that it made him hard and The Advocate called it a “pretentious bore.” I, myself, have seen it several times over the last decade and I still don’t know what to make of it. Yet Querelle’s images have haunted me for most of my adult life. Love it or hate it, no viewer will ever forget

Made shortly before his death, Querelle was the film that Fassbinder considered his best.

Feminists have remarked how Fassbinder challenges stereotypical images of older women, for instance. Moreau, about 60 years of age at the time of this film, plays a strongly sexual woman.

At times there are almost Shakespearean touches. “He wrapped himself in prudence,

“He waited for the angel to strike.” The narrator is describing a murderer, just after the act. It prepares us for an Iago-like theme that will follow. This gritty, sometimes murderous backdrop of the sailors on shore leave also gives the non-gay viewer some respite.

The theme of murder is given a psychological depth as the murderer is viewed without ethical consideration: “Added to the moral solitude of the murderer comes the solitude of the artist, which can acknowledge no authority save that of another artist.”

Quer“No kissing,”

“I’m too fat!”

“You’ve destroyed me. You have mystical powers. They multiply infinitely.” You cannot look away.

Narrator: And humility can only be born of humiliation, otherwise it is nothing but vanity.

Lysiane: [singing] Each man kills the thing he loves!

Querelle: I’m no fairy!

“You got the same eyes. You got the same chops.”

That’s what other people say…but it isn’t true.
Querelle is a sailor.
Maybe it’s true.
And you love one another…

Just the opposite.
He’s our safety guarantee.
This is Querelle, my brother.
He has a deal for you.
He’s all right.

Cash.
Of course.
Querelle was frozen by Mario’s gaze.
More than indifferent…
Mario’s gaze and stance were glacial.

I’m Robert’s brother.
I know.
A penny for your thoughts, Querelle.
I acknowledge the existence of authority in Mario.
I note his objective gestures.

Querelle was not used to the idea that he was a monster.
A young man, he knew the terror of being alone…
caught in the world of the living.

It’s okay with me.
Perhaps love is a den of killers, and if this is true…
will Querelle draw me into it?
And I?
When the time comes for me to drown in my emotion for Querelle…

 

which seems to be his own will and his own destiny.
The scene we shall relate is a transposition of the event…
which revealed Querelle to us.
We can say that it is comparable to the Visitation.
Okay, you can go now.

Morning, Lieutenant.
Hello, Querelle.
I must say, you’re doing a very good job.
Without even telling me, you’ve offered to do another duty.

What worked? Your business deal? – That worked out fine too.
But I mean something else. I made it.
With Querelle?
That’s news to me.
I swear it.

Sometimes there’s something so female about him…
especially when he does one of those sweet, silly gestures.
But this Querelle is an okay guy.
Hi, Nono.
Let’s go outside.

I’ve become less of a disciplinarian.
My love makes me softer.
The more I love Querelle…
the more gentle and definite…
the sadder the woman in myself becomes…

because she cannot achieve fulfillment.
During one of these strange revelations…
defining my relationship with Querelle…
I think amidst all these sorrows and inner defeats…
“What’s the point?”

Querelle’s friendship for Gil developed to the brink of love.
Like himself, Gil had killed.
He was a little Querelle for whom Querelle maintained…
a strange feeling of respect and curiosity.
As though he was standing before the foetus of a baby Querelle.

And will you? – Yes.
In some obscure way…
Querelle understood that love is voluntary.
You have to want it.
When you don’t love men…

even if only at the moment you’re fucking.
So if he was to love Gil, he would have to give up his passivity.
Querelle tried.
My friend.
What a shame we can’t stay together forever.

will be on the train that leaves for Bordeaux at 4:20.
Ciao.
But loved by Querelle…
I would be loved by every sailor in France…
because Querelle is a compendium of all their masculine and naive virtues.

Then I’ll be glad to come along with you.
Let’s go.
Querelle was now Lysiane’s lover.
The excitement she felt thinking about the identity of the two brothers…
exasperated her to such a degree that she felt lost.

Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
Careful, Querelle!
If you lose your footing, you can sometimes fall very far.
Thanks, Inspector.

cradling a dead Jesus.
That’s the guy who shot me. I recognize him.
Querelle, finally!
Why did you keep me waiting so long?
You want to hurt me?

I know now…why I feel so abandoned.
Querelle’s inner harmony was indestructible…
because it was sealed in that heaven of heavens…
where beauty unites with beauty.

 Return to the home page

The Gate of Eden – William Corlett

TGOE

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

This touching story describes the bitter-sweet relationship between 15-year-old Peter and Mr Falconer, an initially grump, bachelor, retired schoolteacher. Gradually learning to enjoy each other’s company through a shared fascination with literature, the two talk, walk and then correspond.

During the holidays, particularly after Falconer’s dog is killed by some bully boys and Falconer has been continually baited, the boy spends considerable time with him.

But the friendship is threatened when Peter’s girlfriend Sue disapproves of him spending so much time with an old man. There is also gossip about why Mr Faulkner retired so suddenly following allegations about him from a pupil. Peter finally confronts his mentor about this, only to be met by silence. They never communicate again. When Corlett adapted this novel for television in 1979, the old English teacher was unforgettably played by Maurice Denham.

Now, I also grew up in a seaside town and was an isolated teenager. Old-ish men showed interest in me, leant me their books and gave me tea. That sort of inter-generational thing helped my personal development – they listend and there were no ulterior motives but they’d now be suspected of being paedophiles – what a shame and a loss to future generations.

TGOE 2Quotations:

” Chance events that we assign to luck or to fate or to destiny ”

The past seems like a foreign country that I once visited years ago”

“poor Mr. Thing.”

“a turning point, a stepping stone, a moment of change.”

Return to the home page

 

Inspiring Equality in Education School Resource – EACH

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

This is the culmination of a Department for Education programme, funded by the Government Equalities Office to help address the findings that schools often lack confidence and feel under-resourced to deal effectively with homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying.

The programme has seen EACH (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia) lead a consortium of local and national agencies to trial whole-school initiatives in ten West of England Schools, deliver training to over 700 professionals and produce a suite of quality assured practical resources.

EACH is based on Bristol and this work mirrors that done from the Bristol Diocese of the Church of England.

March 16th this PSHE Association approved resource is now available for download. The Resource draws on decades of professional practice gained from primary, secondary, rural, urban, faith and secular schools to ensure a safe and equal learning environment for all. It includes;

  • 7 primary school targeted lesson plans covering celebrating difference, families, relationships, gender awareness and LGBT people in history
  • 10 secondary school targeted lessons plans on prejudice-based language or bullying, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans lives, social media, prejudice and gender
  • Policy and practice guidance covering what the law says, teaching about LGBT+ identities and relationships, handling disclosures, staff training and development, improving anti-bullying policies and one-to-one support for LGBT+ young people

Anti-Bullying Alliance, the Jan Lever Group and Off the Record Bristol have all contributed to the resource adding their expertise in preventing all forms of prejudice-based bullying, mindful approaches to PSHE for KS1-2 and supporting trans and gender questioning young people respectively.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance also developed guidance to support schools address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled pupils and those with special educational needs. This includes a short and long guidance for school staff along with a literature review outlining the importance of the topic.

The Equalities Act 2010 plus OFSTED all draw out the importance of this work.

We know that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying destroys young lives – this funding is vital to bring lasting change. Our particular role in the project is to consult with disabled young people about their experiences of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and to make sure schools are supported to make their anti-bullying work fully inclusive. Lauren Seager-Smith, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance

There is no place for bullying of any kind in our society. That’s why we created this fund and why we are delighted to support EACH – so that schools and communities can offer specialist support and training to tackle bullying head on. I’m delighted to see that such positive work is already taking place in Avon and Somerset to help stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.This work will ensure children can learn in a safe and nurturing environment, free from bullying and fear. Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, Carolien Dinenage

Quotations:

Teachers can help change the culture in their own classroom whilst Governors, Trustees and Headteachers can bring about whole school change by ‘leading from the front’ with confidence and conviction. Straightforward practice such as the use of appropriate language, what is placed on noticeboards (or is not) on websites (or not) and your choice of outside speakers all sends out powerful messages about what is valued, endorsed or matters in your school.

Do:

Celebrate difference in all its forms There are many, many opportunities to

celebrate difference in all its forms on a daily basis within schools. Cherish diversity in your pupils and make it absolutely possible for any pupil – regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, faith, disability or special educational need to thrive in your school environment. Test it. Ask pupils what the barriers are – and break them down one by one.

Ensure the school curriculum contributes to preventing all forms of bullying

Use your PSHE education curriculum to equip pupils with the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves and others safe from bullying, and to recognise and challenge prejudice in all its forms. Preventative education and the development of protective characteristics are an essential element of the whole-school approach.

Be ever alert to behaviour and attitudes in your school community. Be a talking school where anyone can speak out and feel supported if they face prejudice, discrimination or bullying

Challenge all forms of prejudice If we genuinely care about the well-being of all children and young people then it’s vital not to pick and choose which type of

prejudice matters most. All forms of prejudice should be tackled – and that includes verbal comments and harmful attitudes related to sexuality and gender.

Lead from the front – There are always individual teachers that are passionate about tackling bullying but they need the support of a strong, united Senior Leadership Team that takes all forms of bullying seriously, and are not afraid to take risks and challenge the status quo if it means everyone feels safe and included.

Ask what would make a difference – Every incident of bullying is an opportunity to learn or do something differently. Consider what needs to change or even better do this before any bullying happens. What would it take for anyone to be able to walk into this school or college and feel valued and supported?

Involve the whole community – This is everyone’s issue. Make sure that

pupils, parents and carers, staff and the wider community all know that you take a strong position when it comes to tackling bullying, whether it happens in school or online. Make sure your anti-bullying policy includes tackling prejudice-based bullying and is shared far and wide.

Create forums for support and discussion – Help pupils to set up their own equality groups in school. These groups should then influence school direction and strategy in relation to prejudice-based bullying.

Know where to get advice – Find out what local services are available for LGBT+ young people and staff in your area and share this information.

Set clear ground rules for any anti-bullying lessons – These should include taking a non-judgmental approach, listening to one another, making no assumptions, avoiding

offensive language and, keeping the conversation in the classroom

Don’t:

Assume you know what’s going on – In schools there is so much that goes on under the radar. Take time to survey pupils and staff about how they feel about school – in particular how inclusive they think school environment is and whether or not they think it keeps all pupils – and staff safe.

Exclude anyone from sex and relationships education Don’t just assume that all pupils are heterosexual and looking forward to becoming a husband and wife combo with

2.4 children. This won’t reflect the families that your pupils come from – and will alienate young people that have other plans and desires. All young people need to be given the language and tools they require to enjoy positive and safe relationships.

Lose sight of who is most important – Never plan your PSHE and SRE programme based on the sensitivities of teachers and/or the perceived sensitivities of parents, rather than the needs of pupils.

Say  – ‘if only you weren’t so gay/bi/trans/ DIFFERENT’ It is simply not a solution for children to act more ‘straight’. Young people must be supported to be comfortable in their own skin, anything else is downright dangerous and irresponsible and risks serious impact to their health and well-being in the long term.

Go for short-term solutions to long-term problems – Children and young people who are bullied want the situation to change long-term. That means taking time to understand whether the behaviour is just down to an individual (who will need support to change) or influenced by a wider culture of prejudice and disrespect. If the latter is the case then it’s time to go back to the Do’s and work to change the school culture.

Make it impossible to access information – We know why schools install software to restrict what pupils can access online through school portals but this can make it difficult for pupils and staff to find information and advice that they may desperately need. Your school will probably need to revise its list of external support agencies to include EACH plus its range of statutory and voluntary agencies which offer complementary support services or training. Make sure this information is available through other means if necessary. Put up posters, hand out leaflets and ensure sources of support are clearly signposted through PSHE education lessons, including teaching about how to access support and what will happen if they do, rather than simply listing sources of support that exist.

Tips for Staff Training

One-off events rarely change habits effectively. Schools need to actively pursue, refine and embed their learning in school practice and may need refresher courses to help build upon their progress

Engage colleagues across the school in training rather than leaving a single staff member to ‘champion’ the cause. Teamwork will not only guarantee that initiatives have a wider impact but that expertise is not consolidated into a single staff member who may leave

Follow up on professional development initiatives allowing time for staff to share learning, identify new initiatives and discuss progress on the topic

Consult outside experts for training delivery to ensure it is fresh and dynamic.

In-house training can be impactful but should not be the only means of training.

Be wary of recycling ideas that are ineffective or not recognising how issues are changing

Network with other schools and learn from each other about successes, challenges and new opportunities to effectively address prejudice-based bullying

If people do not know where the policy is they are unlikely to access it. Once the anti-bullying policy has been published ensure that you promote it widely and celebrate the achievements of those who contributed to its formation.

It is okay for us to disagree with another person’s point of view but we will not judge, make fun of or put anybody down. We will ‘challenge the opinion not the p e r s o n’.

There are suggestions for most subjects in the curriculum but I was particularly interested in:

Religious Education – Looking at different religious attitudes towards same-sex relationships and experiences of LGBT+ people of faith Analysing equal marriage debates

English – Themes of love, identity, relationships, gender, sexuality and prejudice abound in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, the Victorian novel, war poetry, contemporary literature and so on, providing rich material for discussion and debate

Attaching themes of sexuality and gender to characters, authors, poets or playwrights allows pupils to explore these matters from a variety of perspectives without it becoming too personal

Celebrating iconic lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literary figures

Exploring the etymology of words, gendered vocabulary and societal

power, provides fruitful discussion not only for English but modern foreign languages, history, art, PSHE and citizenship.

The report is online here.

Return to the home page

God Says No by James Hannaham

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

Yet another author who teaches creative writing. This is his first novel.

Gary Gray marries his first girlfriend, a Samoan, a fellow student from Central Florida Christian College who loves Disney World as much as he does. They are 19 years old, God-fearing, and eager to start a family, but a week before their wedding Gary goes into a cottage/tearoom and lets something happen. God Says No is his testimony — the story of a young black Christian struggling with desire and belief, with his love for his wife and his appetite for other men, told in a singular, emotional voice. Driven by desperation and religious visions, the path that Gary Gray takes — from revival meetings to “out” life in Atlanta to a pray-away-the-gay ministry in Memphis, Tennessee — gives a riveting picture of how a life like his can be lived, and how it can’t.

He learns Tearoom etiquette very quickly and suffers paranoia and suicidal thoughts.

When involved in a train crash, his first thought is that God has saved him for a purpose p- he even thinks he sees Jesus, with the nail wound through the wrist instead of the hand, which is an obsession of his. Then he thinks it’s the ideal chance to be thought missing, presumed dead… He throws his wallet into the wreckage, yet later says it was stolen and still later has cash to pay for a cab – the author should have decided which of these two to discard.

He has a relationship with a good guy but he cannot give himself freely because of his guilt.

Gray spends the novel’s last third in a gay reform camp outside Memphis, and even though it’s clear that Hannaham views such efforts as fruitless and damaging, instead of mocking southerners, Bible-thumpers and gay reformers, Hannaham humanises them.  The ‘Resurrection Ministry’ programme is similar to those offered in such places – wearing new clothes, engaging in manly sports and learning how to mend cars and build things. Stupidly, the men sleep two to a room. Lead us not into temptation?

At one stage, some men break out and get told off for smoking a cigarette as if that was worse than them beating up a gay guy cruising.

It’s a satire of conservative Christianity and as a sensitive portrait of a struggling Christian. Hannaham’s contemporary South is a complicated place, where lust makes people strange, and love comes in more varieties than man-woman couplings. Through Gray’s example, Hannaham shows how God might say “no” to Christians’ rejection of homosexuality.

Quotations:

“No wonder old people go here to die, Going to Heaven from Florida, you wouldn’t notice the change. I spotted palm trees as the aircraft flew down, then I saw Disney World just before landing and thought, I am returning to paradise. Not even Adam and Eve got to do that.”

The way our classmates talked about it, getting saved came naturally, like a sneeze. Jesus would illuminate your soul and touch your heart until it blew like a volcano into ecstasy and new life. Color and peace flood your world…Salvation was like trying to think of a name you couldn’t remember. It would come faster if you didn’t force it. Maybe getting saved and liking women happened in the same way. Maybe if I let go and let God in, He’d mend everything.

“I wasn’t a homosexual, I just had same-sex attractions, and I did guy stuff sometimes, but I could sort of perform with my wife sometimes now, so that was that.”

“What does Jesus say when He talks to you?” I asked my brother Joe.

Joe was big like me and good in science. He kept a chemistry set under a corner of our bed, potatoes on sticks in plastic cups on our windowsills, and a hurt bird in an animal hospital in the yard.

Without looking up from his forbidden X-Men comic book, Joe said, “Jesus don’t talk to me. He don’t talk to nobody. That’s some hokum they say at church.”

Confusion and fear came over me. Joe stared at me like a puzzle he didn’t feel like solving. “You think God’s talking to you? In your head?

Boy, you’re stone crazy.” He iced his rejection with a sneer.

“No I’m not. If that’s not Jesus, then whose voice is answering my prayers?”

“Gary. Damn. I must say, I’ve never known anybody who could fool themselves as good as you. That’s your own voice. You’re pretending that it’s Jesus.”

I put my Jesuses side by side and knelt by the nightstand. Clasping my hands, I put my forehead right up against them. “Lord, I can’t live this way,” I said. “You’ve got to change me right this instant. I have to be normal by Saturday.”

I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and slid into my pajamas without leaving the locked bathroom. Annie and I prayed together, asking the Lord to look down and bless our marriage. Silently I added my usual wish to be changed.

I got under the covers. With the lights out and a heavenly glow fro the neon display outside coming through the drawn curtains, An climbed into bed beside me and asked for a goodnight kiss. I rolled over and puckered up. As we kissed, she kept her lips pressed against mine, then opened her mouth and tried to wedge her tongue between my lips.

“What’re you doing?” I struggled to say against her tongue.

“It’s our honeymoon, Gary!”

I didn’t respond. Instead I listened to her breathing, hoping we co let this drop and go to sleep. No way could I have a marriage where had to be important.

“Gary,” she said carefully, “I would like to express my devotion to in Christ through the act of love.”

Annie never complained about the lack of sex, but I saw her frustration rising like a flood tide. She knew that the Bible required her to submit to her husband, but she wasn’t afraid to express herself, either. “What happened to ‘Go forth and multiply’?” I heard her sigh to herself once, as she changed into her nightgown. She had just left me on the couch as the second volume of Dances with Wolves played out on the VCR.

The woman said Dios es amor so many times I had to nudge the lady next to me and ask what it meant. She said “God is love,” and nodded, in agreement with herself. I nodded, too, but I got to wondering. Now, if that was true, why would He make you fall in love and then strike you dead for obeying Him? Clearly, the Lord didn’t mind the love part of homosexuality. It was the sex part that got Him mad. Two men could love each other without giving in to animalistic urges. I bet they could still be good Christians. I took that as the main message for my year of free checking.

I bought him a religious self-help book for his birthday. “Catho-lick!” he said, waving the book in his hand. “Got it? I was raised Catholic, and I’m never going back there, let alone evangelical Christianity. I’m plenty crazy as it is.”

I held back from proselytizing now, but I couldn’t stop completely. I wanted the best for his eternal soul, plus I felt like Heaven wouldn’t really be Heaven without him. “I don’t want you to go to Hell.”

Thinking that I hadn’t used enough shampoo, I lathered extra amounts of the creamy blue goop into my hair during showers, but nothing changed. By the end of the month, I was filling my entire palm with Head & Shoulders and working it around furiously during each shampooing. I lathered, rinsed, and repeated several times during every shower. But still my head itched all day and I couldn’t concentrate when I spoke to anybody, because I thought they were just gawking at the snowstorm on my head.

I finished two bottles of the product and was about to request a third, but as I filled out the slip and gave it to Gay, I mentioned that it didn’t seem like the shampoo was doing its job right.

“It creates a seal over the scalp,” Gay said matter-of-factly.

“And the seal is what flakes off as dandruff?”

“Uh-huh.”

In Gay’s view, the makers of the product understood that the people who used it would be the same folks who worried most about dandruff The advertisements targeted those people. The product made the problem seem worse, so that the worried people would worry more and buy more.

“Really? That’s awful sneaky of the Head & Shoulders people,” I remarked.

“We’ve all got to eat,” she said, leaning over the request form with her pen held up.

Even though I didn’t like it when the shampoo company did it. I wonder now if everybody at Resurrection Ministries lived under the philosophy of We’ve All Got to Eat. Many of the men I counseled became involved in a cycle of sin and forgiveness after sin and fogiveneness that kept them emotionally dependent on the center. But as long they confessed their thoughts and deeds, pledged their commitment to getting better, and didn’t fall too hard, nobody could doubt the goodness of the program.

How can George say that God thinks homosexuality don’t exist? That’s like saying God thinks dust don’t exist and then spending your whole life vacuuming the rug. No wonder it’s so hard to get over these urges. How do you get rid of an urge if you’re blabbing about it all day?

“And sex without babies is purposeless—like, to you guys, it’s in the same category with art, it’s like synchronized swimming, or interpretive dance, right?”

Return to the home page

 

Tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs – EACH

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

A survey of UK LGBT youth found that two thirds of disabled children and those with SEN had experienced homophobic bullying”

Compared to their peers, disabled children and those with SEN are twice as likely to report being bullied at school” – so this report was written.

Quotations:

The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) spoke to disabled young people, including young people with physical, learning, and sensory impairments, deaf young people, young

people with SEN, and young people who had experienced emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. We use ‘disabled young people’ or ‘young people’ throughout this briefing to refer to all of the young people we spoke to.

The young people we spoke to also identified as trans, non-binary, lesbian, gay and bisexual, and young people who had or were questioning their sexuality or gender identity.

We also spoke to disabled young people who identified as heterosexual.

Young people told us their views and ideas about:

sex and relationships education in school and what they learnt about LGBT+ issues, where else they got information about this, and their ideas for how disabled young people should be given better LGBT+ information.

what schools could do to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled young people and young people with emotional or mental health dfficulties.

Sex education for disabled young people is c**p. There is none. In the whole 7 years I was at secondary school I had no sex and relationships education at all.”

Disabled young people said they had received little or no sex and relationships education (SRE) at school and:

what little SRE they had received was limited and narrowly focused on heterosexual sex, safe sex and there was little focus on developing healthy relationships.

they had learnt little or nothing in SRE about disability or being LGBT+ – and nothing at all that related to being LGBT+ and disabled.

that they were often withdrawn from SRE lessons to be given additional learning or health support.

“Mine was ok. They covered a few things but not much detail. Just safe sex. Nothing about disability or LGBTQ.”

“Just generic – boys and girls in different rooms. A video, ‘this is a penis…’ and not much else.”

“Nothing related to disability or LGBTQ.”

“Condom on a banana, a leaflet about puberty. That was it.”

“What sex education there is, is all physical. There’s nothing about healthy relationships.”

“In our [faith] school, the only sex education we got was ‘if you have sex before marriage, you’re bad and god will hate you.”

“People didn’t talk to me about sex, relationships because of my visual impairment. They didn’t think I would be attracted to anyone because I couldn’t see them, as if all attraction is visual.”

“People think disabled people are asexual as it is, so they don’t talk to you about any relationships, let alone about being or acknowledging that you are LGBT.”

Many disabled young people said they were not believed when they reported bullying and that this was even more of an issue if you were also LGBT+. Young people said that being a disabled young person meant they were often not believed on two counts:

when they reported being bullied.

about being LGBT+

“I got bullied for being gay. I told a teacher I trusted and they just said it was a phase I was going through. As if it being a phase made the bullying OK, or any less bad. They didn’t do anything about it. They treated it like it was nothing. It really affected me and how I felt about being gay. I thought it must be something bad.”

‘Disablist and HBT bullying –  It’s a double whammy…’

Young people told us that they experienced both HBT and disablist bullying in schools and that “If it’s not one thing it’s the other. If you’re not bullied for being disabled, you’re bullied for being gay. Or both”

“I was badly affected by my autism at school – that’s what most of my bullying came from. I wasn’t out as trans then, I was trying to hide it, but people also bullied me for being effeminate.”

“Lots of LGBT young people are much more likely to have mental health issues.”

“The teachers understood my autism, but the students were unbelievably harsh.”

“Even in the gay community, they can be stigmatising about disability.”

“Imagine, you have not one but two stereotypes to contend with! It’s a double whammy.”

“I’m not out as trans at school. But people think I’m gay and bully me because of that.”

Young people said that they often have to come out twice, as they have to come out as a disabled person and come out as LGBT+. They said this was made worse by poor attitudes towards disability, sexuality, and gender identity all of which made them worry about how people would react.

Make sure SRE covers issues that are important to disabled young people. This may include peer advice or support, so that they can learn and ask questions about some of the specific issues disabled people may experience. For example, this may include body confidence and self-esteem, or managing relationships when you have a personal assistant.

Support school staff to understand homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and disability. This is important so that they understand:

that disabled young people can be LGBT+ too.

what the issues are for LGBT+ disabled young people.

what to look out for and how to approach a young person that is struggling or being bullied.

what they can say or do to tackle bullying or challenge homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or disablist language.

The report is online here

Return to the home page

The Lost Language of Cranes – David Leavitt

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

This is his first novel (previously he’d written a collection of short stories) and deals primarily with the difficulties a young gay man, Philip Benjamin, 25, has in coming out to his parents: Rose, a copy editor and Owen, director of admissions at a private boys’ school (52 years old, married for 27) and with their subsequent reactions.

The title comes from an article read by Jerene about a child who emulates cranes as this was the only thing he would see out of his window from his cot, and his parents weren’t about. He was then sent to a psychaitric ward.

The novel is divided into four sections: “Voyages,” “Myths of Origin,” “The Crane Child,” and “Father and Son”

It is set in the 1980s against the backdrop of a swiftly gentrifying Manhattan. Philip, realizes that he must come out to his parents after falling in love for the first time with a man. Philip’s parents are facing their own crisis: pressure from developers and the loss of their long-time home to a housing co-operative. But the real threat to this family is Philip’s father’s own struggle with his latent homosexuality – on Sunday afternoon he visits gay porn theatres. Philip’s admission to his parents and his father’s hidden life provoke changes that forever alter the landscape of their worlds

Rose visits her son, who lives in a shabby neighbourhood. He says he likes to go to the East Village. One Sunday she takes a walk, goes to a launderette and bumps into her husband. Owen then goes to a gay pornographic cinema, where a man leaves him his number.

Philip and Eliot are in bed; Philip gets up to do the dishes. He thinks back to how they met through Sally. Owen gets back to his apartment, soaked through. Philip and Eliot then wake up; Philip seems keen on flatmate Jerene’s research on lost languages. There is then an account of Jerene’s childhood up to her coming out to her parents and being spurned by them. Philip and Eliot then talk about their experiences with men. Philip goes on to remember the way he would masturbate a lot and how he tried to ask girls out – and they refused. Finally, he recalls going to a gay pornographic cinema when he was seventeen.

Owen calls Alex Melchor but it’s a wrong number. Philip asks Eliot to introduce him to Derek and Geoffrey. Later, he goes to his parents’ flat to look at Derek’s books. Jerene is getting ready for a date. Philip meets Eliot’s foster parents for dinner, then they go to a gay bar where Philip meets his old acquaintance Alex Kamarov. Outside, Eliot admits to being unsure about their relationship; nevertheless they return to Eliot’s, where he teaches Philip how to shave properly.

Philip eventually comes out to his parents. His mother is tersely averse; his father says it is fine, though he starts weeping as soon as the young man has left.

Eliot doesn’t return Philip’s calls; when Jerene meets Philip for a drink, she admits there is not much that can be done. Later, Philip talks to his friend Brad. He then gets really drunk out on the town to forget. A few days later, he meets Rob in a bar and they return to the boy’s dorm room where they have sex. Subsequently, Philip does not return his calls.

Owen calls a gay hotline, then hangs up and calls Alex Melchor, who tells him to call someone else, and then Philip, hanging up before they can talk. Later, Philip runs into his parents and tells them he’s broken up with Eliot.

Rose says to Philip that she needs more time to ruminate. Owen calls a gay sex phone-line and starts sobbing. He then goes to a gay bar and meets another man named Frank; they go to Frank’s flat and have sex. When he gets home, it’s half past two in the morning, and Rose is hurt.

Owen invites Winston Penn to dinner, and attempts to fix him up with Philip. That night, Rose finally realizes that Owen is gay too. While Philip and Brad get into bed together, Rose and Owen have a big argument. Owen goes off to a Burger King until he calls his son asking for a place to stay for the night. Before Philip goes to find his father, he passionately kisses Brad. Upon Philip’s arrival Owen confesses to being gay, and they settle in for a sleepless night in Philip’s disorderly apartment.

It has been said that ‘the novel sums up the history of gay books themselves’: that is, from the pangs of opprobrium (Owen) to self-acceptance (Philip)

TLLOC 2Quotations:

”He moved like a crane, made the noises of a crane, and although the doctors showed him many pictures and toys, he only responded to the pictures of cranes, only played with the toy cranes. Only cranes made him happy. He came to be known as the ‘crane-child.’ ”

”How wondrous, how grand those cranes must have seemed to Michel, compared to the small and clumsy creatures who surrounded him. For each, in his own way, she believed, finds what it is he must love, and loves it; the window becomes a mirror; whatever it is that we love, that is who we are.”

“Hope had stolen into his life just as he was growing comfortable with despair.”

“Cautiously his foot explored, wiggled as it could, and finally felt warm flesh under the pants leg.”

Return to the home page

A Home at the End of the World – Michael Cunningham

AHATEOTW 2This coming-of-age novel is narrated in the first person, with the narrator changing in each chapter. Bobby and Jonathan are the main narrators, but several chapters are narrated by Alice, Jonathan’s mother, and Clare.

Bobby had grown up in a home in suburban Cleveland, Ohio during the 1960s and 1970s where partying and drugs were a recurring theme. He has already witnessed the death of his mother and beloved older brother by the time he befriends Jonathan, who comes from a sheltered family. After Bobby finds his father is dead, Jonathan’s family takes him in.

Bobby and Jonathan become best friends, and also experiment sexually. The two eventually lose touch, but meet up again in their 20s in 1980s New York, where Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his eccentric roommate Clare. Clare had planned to have a baby with openly gay Jonathan, but Bobby and Clare become lovers, while Jonathan still has feelings for Bobby. Clare and Bobby have a baby and move to a country home together with Jonathan.

The trio form their own unusual family, questioning traditional definitions of family and love, while dealing with the complications of their love triangle.

AHATEOTW 3Quotations:

We gathered at dusk on the darkening green. I was give. The air smelled of newly cut grass, and the sand traps were luminous. My father carried me on his shoulders. I was both pilot and captive of his enormity. My bare legs thrilled to the sandpaper of his cheeks, and I held on to his ears, great soft shells that buzzed minutely with hair.

“We’d hoped vaguely to fall in love but hadn’t worried much about it, because we’d thought we had all the time in the world. Love seemed so final, and so dull — love was what ruined our parents. Love had delivered them to a life of mortgage payments and household repairs; to unglamorous jobs and the fluorescent aisles of supermarkets at two in the afternoon.”

Here was another lesson in my continuing education: like other illegal practices, love between boys was best treated as a commonplace. Courtesy demanded that one’s fumbling, awkward performance be no occasion for remark, as if in fact one had acted with the calm expertise of a born criminal.

“once, when she passed me in the hall on her way to the bathroom, she stopped long enough to stroke my hair. She didn’t speak. She looked at me as if she was standing on a platform in a flat, dry country and I was pulling away on a train that travelled high into an alpine world.”

”Its outbuildings are anchored on a sea of swaying wheat, its white clapboard is molten in the late, hazy light.”

“A baby has no subvert life, and by comparison everyone else you know seems cloaked, muffled, and full of sad little tricks.”

“I wanted a settled life and a shocking one.”

“Really, I think staying is the cowardly thing.”

AHATEOTW “I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether. There were so many different ways to be beautiful.”

“The secret of flight is this — you have to do it immediately, before your body realizes it is defying the laws.”

“we become the stories we tell ourselves”

“Perhaps, in the extravagance of youth, we give away our devotions easily and all but arbitrarily, on the mistaken assumption that we’ll always have more to give.”

“This is what you do. You make a future for yourself out of the raw material at hand.”

“Here is what unsayable about us: Jonathan and I are members of a team so old nobody else could join even if we wanted them to. What binds us is stronger than sex. It is stronger than love. We’re related. Each of us is the other born into a different flesh.”

“I’m talking about a little truth-in-packaging here. To be perfectly frank, you don’t quite look like yourself. And if you walk around looking like someone other than who you are, you could end up getting the wrong job, the wrong friends, who knows what-all. You could end up with somebody else’s life.”

I shrugged again, and smiled. “This is my life,” I said. “It doesn’t seem like the wrong one.”

“I am beginning to understand the true difference between youth and age. Young people have time to make plans and think of new ideas. Older people need their whole energy to keep up with what’s already been set in motion.”

“We’d hoped for love of a different kind, love that knew and forgave our human frailty but did not miniaturize our grander ideas of ourselves.”

“I’m not this unusual,” she said. “It’s just my hair.”

She looked at Bobby and she looked at me, with an expression at once disdainful and imploring. She was forty, pregnant, and in love with two men at once. I think what she could not abide was the zaniness of her life. Like many of us, she had grown up expecting romance to bestow dignity and direction.

“Be brave,” I told her. Bobby and I stood before her, confused and homeless and lacking a plan, beset by an aching but chaotic love that refused to focus in the conventional way. Traffic roared behind us. A truck honked its hydraulic horn, a monstrous, oceanic sound. Clare shook her head, not in denial but in exasperation. Because she could think of nothing else to do, she began walking again, more slowly, toward the row of trees.”

“I was living my own future and my brother’s lost one as well. I represented him here just as he represented me there, in some unguessable other place. His move from life to death might resemble my stepping into the kitchen – into its soft nowhere quality and foggy hum. I breathed the dark air. If I had at that moment a sense of calm kindly death while my heart beat and my lungs expanded, he might know a similar sense of life in the middle of his ongoing death.”

“Man,” he said, “I’m not afraid of graveyards. The dead are just, you know, people who wanted the same things you and I want.”
“What do we want?” I asked blurrily.
“Aw, man, you know,” he said. “We just want, well, the same things these people wanted.”
“What was that?”
He shrugged. “To live, I guess,” he said.”

“How are you feeling, man?” he asks me.

“Great,” I tell him, and it is purely the truth. Doves clatter up out of a bare tree and turn at the same instant, transforming themselves from steel to silver in the snow-blown light. I know at that moment that the drug is working. Everything before me has become suddenly, radiantly itself. How could Carlton have known this was about to happen? “Oh,” I whisper. His hand settles on my shoulder.

“Stay loose, Frisco,” he says. “There’s not a thing in this pretty world to be afraid of. I’m here.”

I am not afraid. I am astonished. I had not realized until this moment how real everything is. A twig lies on the marble at my feet, bearing a cluster of hard brown berries. The broken-off end is raw, white, fleshly. Trees are alive.

“I’m here,” Carlton says again, and he is.”

“I suppose at heart it was the haircut that did it; that exploded the ordinary order of things and showed me the possibilities that had been there all along, hidden among the patterns in the wallpaper. In a different age, we used to take acid for more or less the same reason.”

“You don’t necessarily meet a lot of people in this world. Not when you let yourself get distracted by music and the passing of hours.”

“I wanted a settled life and a shocking one. Think of Van Gogh, cypress trees and church spires under a sky of writhing snakes. I was my father’s daughter. I wanted to be loved by someone like my tough judicious mother and I wanted to run screaming through the headlights with a bottle in my hand. That was the family curse. We tended to nurse flocks of undisciplined wishes that collided and canceled each other out. The curse implied that if we didn’t learn to train our desires in one direction or another we were likely to end up with nothing. Look at my father and mother today.

I married in my early twenties. When that went to pieces I loved a woman. At both of those times and at other times, too, I believed I had focused my impulses and embarked on a long victory over my own confusion. Now, in my late thirties, I knew less than ever about what I wanted. In place of youth’s belief in change I had begun to feel a nervous embarrassment that ticked inside me like a clock. I’d never meant to get this far in such an unfastened condition. (p.142)”

“It was either the wind or the spirit of the house itself, briefly unsettled by our nocturnal absence but to old to be surprised by the errands born from the gap between what we can imagine and what we can in fact create.”

“He seemed to believe that from such humble, inert elements as flour, shortening, and drab little envelopes of yeast, life itself could be produced.”

“He moved in a world of chaos of self, fearful and astonished to be here, right here, alive in a pine-paneled bedroom.”

“I knew how I sounded – slow and oafish, like the cousin who gets ditched and goes on playing alone, as if he’d planned it that way. I couldn’t quite tell her about the daily beauty, how I didn’t tire of seeing 6 a.m. light on the telephone wires. When I was younger, I’d expected to grow out of the gap between the self I knew and what I heard myself say. I’d expected to feel more like one single person.”

“You don’t necessarily meet a lot of people in this world. Not when you let yourself get distracted by music and the passing of hours.”

“I had blundered again, obscurely, and rather than go on worrying over my behavior, I decided to just give in and dislike Alice.”

“Unfamiliar insects produced a soft but insistent chirp; a crisp whir like the sound the earth itself might make rolling through the darkness if we all kept quiet enough to hear it. The lights of the condominium complex shone. They were not far away. Still, they looked almost too real and close to touch. They were like holes punched in the night, leaking light from another, more animated world. For a moment I could imagine what it would be like to be a ghost—to walk forever through a silence deeper than silence, to apprehend but never quite reach the lights of home.”

“I used to want to be a cheerleader,” I told them. “Before I decided to just go to hell.”

“This moment may come to us all, at some point in our eventutal move from health into sickness. We abandon our old obligation to consider the needs of others, and give ourselves up to their care. There is a shift in status. We become citizens of a new realm, and although we retain the best and worst of our former selves we are no longer bodily in command of our fates.”
“I’ve been just wondering lately, if this is, you know, it. An apartment and a steady job and some people to love. What more could I want?”

“I had lived until then for the future in a state of continuing expectation, and the process came suddenly to a stop while I stood nude with Bobby and Erich in a shallow platter of freezing water. . . . I was nothing so simple as happy. I was merely present, perhaps for the first time in my adult life.”

“I realized that if I died soon I would have known this, a connection with my life, its errors and cockeyed successes. . . . I would not die unfulfilled because I’d been here, right here and nowhere else.”

Return to the home page

The Milkman’s on his Way – David Rees

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

This was written for gay teens and caused quite a stir when it was published. The controversy led to some councils and local political parties adopting gay-positive policies including commitments to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians and to the Tory government seeking to ban such things..

I was privileged to meet the author once. He’d taught English in a comprehensive and later went on to train teachers in Exeter, so he knows how to write. His literary output, mainly aimed at young people, was prolific.

The stages of Rees’s writing career corresponded with his own personal development. Rees didn’t fully come to terms with his homosexuality until relatively late in life (after marriage and fatherhood). ‘I came out when I was 37 and had my first novel accepted for publication that year. The two things are inextricably bound up together, there’s no doubt about it.’

This novel sold in excess of 25,000 copies and is probably the most successful British gay novel to have appeared from a small, specialist press, helped perhaps by the controversy surrounding it during the passage of Clause into Section 28.

Ewan Macrea is a 14 year old, living by the seaside in Bude. He’s a surfer and is having difficulties dealing with his lack of interest in girls and his growing fascination with his best mate Leslie.

TMOHW 2 Quotations:

Growing up gay, beginning as a teenager, to realize what you are: that’s when you start to suffer. Just when everyone else is becoming involved with the opposite sex, you’re alone in having to hide your feelings. Impossible to talk to anybody. It’s not something you want to blurt out to your parents, obviously. Or to your teachers, Or to the boy you fancy: He’d jeer at you or hit you.The only salvation is to find people like yourself. And that’s a big step. A very big step.

Return to the home page

Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran

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

This novel is important in the study of gay  literature be cause it shows what gay life was like in the decade after the Stonewall incident of 1969, reveals characters in all walks of gay life, including the gay drug-user, the transvestite, the gay businessman, etc. and it demonstrates one possible path for a gay man in the 1970s: to come out, get laid for the first time with a stranger, join the circuit, meet other gays of every possible stereotype through sex, become a hooker, and eventually become an old and wizened gay, who no longer desires sex as a means to intimacy and personal happiness.

The novel revolves around two main characters: Anthony Malone, a young man from the Midwest who leaves behind his “straight” life as a lawyer to immerse himself in the gay life of 1970s New York, and Andrew Sutherland, variously described as a speed addict, a socialite, and a drag queen. From Manhattan’s Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island’s deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen. Their social life includes long nights of drinking, dancing, and drug use in New York’s gay bars. Though they enjoy many physical pleasures, their lives lack any spiritual depth. The “dance” of the novel’s title becomes a metaphor for their lives. Malone is described as preternaturally beautiful; much of the plot concerns Sutherland’s efforts to leverage Malone’s beauty by “marrying” him to a young millionaire.

The book switches perspective often. Sometimes characters are tracked closely using more traditional omniscient narrative techniques. On other occasions (especially later in the book), the lives of Malone and Sutherland are seen from the perspective of bystanders in the New York gay scene – the book itself is literally written by the other dancers at the dance.

Though Dancer is a work of fiction, what emerges is a sense of the extent to which underground gay parties built the foundation of all that became recognized as club culture. The story is told from the point of view of one member of the amorphous mass of revelers in Malone’s social sphere, and this device allows Holleran to pepper Dancer with philosophical musings that strike a chord deeper than basic tenets of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll:

It was Holleran’s first novel and reads like one. The author’s writing style seems to consist of lists.

He didn’t do research but kept a diary. He observed: When you went dancing in those days, it was a group gathered in a room at strange hours. There was a secrecy about it, and the music took you out of yourself in a way religious ceremonies can.

Andrew Holleran is a pseudonym. The author’s real name is Eric Gerber. He was born in 1943 in Aruba. He took up the pen name when Dancer was published to avoid homophobic backlash and has stuck with it through the years.

DFTD 4Quotations:

“The greatest drug of all, my dear, was not one of those pills in so many colors that you took over the years, was not the opium, the hash you smoked in houses at the beach, or the speed or smack you shot up in Sutherland’s apartment, no, it wasn’t any of these. It was the city, darling, it was the city, the city itself. And do you see why I had to leave? As Santayana said, dear, artists are unhappy because they are not interested in happiness; they live for beauty. God, was that steaming, loathsome city beautiful!!! And why finally no human lover was possible, because I was in love with all men, with the city itself.”

“They faced each other at opposite ends of an illusion.”

“When you put something down that happened, people often don’t believe it; whereas, you can make up anything, and people assume it must have happened to you.”

“Dreams decompose, darling,… like anything else. And they give off gases, some of which are poisonous and all of which are unpleasant, and so one goes away from the place in which the dreams were dreamed, and are now decomposing before your very eyes. Otherwise, you might die, dear, of monoxide poisoning.”

“Witty people came out in autumn; beauties in July.”

“Tomorrow the rush of men, all working for a living, would drown him; but now, at this moment, in this soft green twilight, this soft green Sunday evening, when the heart of the world seemed to lie beating in the palm of his hand, he sat in that huge house upstairs terrified that he would never live.”

“Indifference is the greatest aphrodisiac.”

“If your friends don’t want your boyfriend, what’s the point?”

“The more beautiful the sky, the more hopeless the neighborhood.”

“The point is that we are not doomed because we are homosexual, my dear, we are doomed only if we live in despair because of it, as we did on the beaches and the streets of Suck City.”

“Imagine a pleasure in which the moment of satisfaction is simultaneous with the moment of destruction: to kiss is to poison; lifting to your lips this face after which you have ached, dreamed, longed for, the face shatters, every time.”

“A moral man is essentially dumbfounded when confronted by a man who is amoral—everything the latter does is met with a certain disbelief.”

“Try not to be self-conscious …or so critical. Don’t mope around looking for someone else to make you happy, and remember that the vast majority of homosexuals are looking for a superman to love and find it very difficult to love anyone merely human, which we unfortunately happen to be.”

DFTD 3“Living for beauty is all very fine, but it’s a hard regimen and burns up the heart very quickly.”

“We want not only to be loved, but to be loved alone.”

“It was all over: dead. He had no idea, where Frankie had gone. But what was worse, he was everywhere.”

“…especially the young ones, come into the canyon for the first time, quiet as deer, some of them, coming to your hand for salt: their dark eyes wide and gleaming with the wonder and the fear we had all felt at seeing for the first time life as our dreams had always imagined it… at seeing so many people with whom they could fall in love. The old enchantment composed of lights, music, people was transfixing them for the first time, and it made their faces even more touching.”

“There are three lies in life,” Sutherland said to his young companion, whose first night this was in the realm of homosexuality and whose introduction to it Sutherland had taken upon himself to supervise. “One, the check is in the mail. Two, I will not come in your mouth. And three, all Puerto Ricans have big cocks,” he said.”

“You are doomed to a life that will repeat itself again and again, as do all lives—for lives are static things, readings of already written papers—but whereas some men are fortunate to repeat a good pattern, others have the opposite luck—and you can surely see by now that your life is doomed to this same humiliation, endlessly repeated.”

“For the fact was drugs were not necessary to most of us, because the music, youth, sweaty bodies were enough. And if it was too hot, too humid to sleep the next day, and we awoke bathed in sweat, it did not matter: We remained in a state of animated suspension the whole hot day. We lived for music, we lived for Beauty, and we were poor. But we didn’t care where we were living, or what we had to do during the day to make it possible; eventually, if you waited long enough, you were finally standing before the mirror in that cheap room, looking at your face one last time, like an actor going onstage, before rushing out to walk in the door of that discotheque and see someone like Malone.”

DFTD 2“For that is the curious quality of the discotheque after you have gone there a long time: in the midst of all the lights, and music, the bodies, the dancing, the drugs, you are stiller than still within, and though you go through the motions of dancing you are thinking a thousand disparate things. You find yourself listening to the lyrics, and you wonder what these people around you are doing. They seemed crazed to you. You stand there on a floor moving your hips, wondering if there is such a thing as love, and conscious for the very first time that it is three-twenty-five and the night only half-over. You put the popper to your nostril, you put a hand out to lightly touch the sweaty, rigid stomach of the man dancing next to you, your own chest is streaming with sweat in that hot room, and you are thinking, as grave as a judge: What will I do with my life? What can any man do with his life? And you finally don’t know where to rest your eyes. You don’t know where to look, as you dance. You have been expelled from the communion of the saints.”

“But Malone was thinking now and as he watched the men lighting cigarettes for each other in the dark, having sex beneath the trees, he turned to his friend and said in a wondering voice: “Isn’t it strange that when we fall in love, this great dream we have, this extraordinary disease, the only thing in which either one of us is interested, it’s inevitably with some perfectly ordinary drip who for some reason we cannot define is the magic bearer, the magician, the one who brings all this to us. Why?”

“Have you ever noticed,” he said, stirred now by this vision of domestic bliss that was beyond his reach, and shocked earlier that evening to find himself crying in the subway on his way home from a client, “that gay people secrete everything in each other’s presence but tears?”

“I’m in mid-passage, darling,” he said, beginning to talk like a queen so as to demystify himself, so as to destroy the very qualities John Schaeffer had fallen in love with, “I’m menopausal, change of life, hot flashes, you know. Wondering how much longer I can go without hair transplants and whether Germaine Monteil really works on the crow’s feet. I’ve had it, I’ve been through the mill, I’m a jaded queen. But you, dear, you have that gift whose loss the rest of life is just a funeral for—why else do you suppose those gray-haired gentlemen,” he said, nodding at his friends on the floor, “make money, buy houses, take trips around the world? Why else do they dwindle into a little circle of close friends, a farm upstate, and become in the end mere businessmen, shop-owners, decorators who like their homes filled with flowers and their friends flying in on Air France and someone pretty like you at the dinner table? It is all, my dear, because they are no longer young. Because they no longer live in that magic world that is yours for ten more years. Adolescence in America ends at thirty.”

“Never forget that all these people are primarily a visual people. They are designers, window dressers, models, photographers, graphic artists. They design the windows at Saks. Do you understand? They are a visual people, and they value the eye, and their sins, as Saint Augustine said, are the sins of the eye. And being people who live on the surface of the eye, they cannot be expected to have minds or hearts. It sounds absurd but it’s that simple. Everything is beautiful here, and that is all it is: beautiful. Do not expect anything else, do not expect nourishment for anything but your eye—and you will handle it all beautifully. You will know exactly what you are dealing with.”

“Dreams are all equipped with revolving doors: Someone is always walking into the one you are leaving, and vice-versa.”

“There was a moment of silence and then Sutherland breathed, “But, darling! Gossip is the food of the gods.”

“Because,’ he said—thinking, Because sex is wonderful, and who wouldn’t want to do it as much as possible? Because sex is ecstasy, and there’s no ecstasy left in this civilization anymore. Because we thought penicillin could cure everything. Because people are looking for Love. Because in this society we can’t find support for stable partnerships. Because we’re ashamed, and seek out sex with a stranger we don’t have to say hello to in the street the next day, much less mention at our funerals. Because, because, because, he thought, and then he turned to her and said. ‘Why do you smoke?’ (196).”

“I couldn’t not write. Sometimes I ask myself, How do people get through life without writing? I write to calm anxiety, to process pain. Writing to me is reflection.”

“Some live for love more than others. And he experienced a death that night.”

“Can one waste a life?”

“I can’t help its being gay. I have been a full-time fag for the past five years, I realized the other day. Everyone I know is gay, everything I do is gay, all my fantasies are gay, I am what Gus called those people we used to see in the discos, bars, baths, all the time—remember? Those people we used to see EVERYWHERE, every time we went out, so that you wanted to call the police and have them arrested?—I am a doomed queen.

I would LIKE to be a happily married attorney with a house in the suburbs, 2.6 kids, and a station wagon, in which we would drive every summer to see the Grand Canyon, but I’m not! I am completely, hopelessly gay!”

“I’ll go live in the woods,” said Malone.
“You’ll be lonely,” said Sutherland. “Even Thoreau went to town in the afternoon to gossip.”

“…what happens to most of these people anyway? They have their fling and then they vanish. They have to take jobs eventually as telephone operators, bartenders, partners in a lamp shop in some little town in the San Fernando mountains… and others take their places… but mostly they just vanish, and you forget about them unless you hear, one day, a certain song.”

“… and the only reason he came out at all, during that period after he left Frankie, when he wanted to go away and hide forever, was the crazy compulsion with which we resolved all the tangled impulses of our lives—the need to dance.”

“They were the most romantic creatures in the city in that room. If their days were spent in banks and office buildings, no matter: Their true lives began when they walked through this door—and were baptized into a deeper faith, as if brought to life by miraculous immersion. They lived only for the night.”

“He did not wish to be the man to whom nothing was ever to happen.”

“What, we may well ask, is there left to live for? Why get out of bed? For this dreary round of amusing insincerity? This filthy bourgeois society that the Aristotelians have foisted upon us? No, we may still choose to live like gods, like poets. Which brings us down to dancing. Yes,” he said, turning to Malone, “that is all that’s left when love has gone.”

“Now of all the bonds between homosexual friends, none was greater than that between friends who danced together. The friend you danced with, when you had no lover, was the most important person in your life; and for people who went without lovers for years, that was all they had.”

“Love is a career with its own stages, rewards, and failures . . . a vocation as concrete as a calling in the Church, worth giving a lifetime to.”

“For you cannot live in New York City very long and not be conscious of the niceties of being rich—the city is, after all, an ecstatic exercise in merchandising—and one evening of his visit to Venezuela Sutherland sat straight up when he read a line of Santayana’s: “Money is the petrol of life.”

“You know, we queens loathed rain at the beach, small cocks, and reality, I think. In that order.”

“You know, when people who were once religious no longer believe in God, they never really change; they just go on, hunting for the ecstatic food, trying to satisfy that hunger.”

“But still we go on, he thinks with a sigh as he crosses his legs, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the police station and doctor’s office.”

“Homosexuality is like a boarding school in which there are no vacations.”

“For even now the drums were in our blood, we sat forward almost hearing them across the bay, and the van raced on through the streets so that the driver could hustle back for another load of pleasure-seekers, so bent on pleasure they were driving right through Happiness, it seemed, a quieter brand of existence that flourished under these green elms. We kept driving right through all the dappled domesticity, like prisoners, indeed, being moved from jail to jail imprisoned in our own sophistication.”

“They were bound together by a common love of a certain kind of music, physical beauty, and style—all the things one shouldn’t throw away an ounce of energy pursuing, and sometimes throw away a life pursuing.”

“During those snowy New England winters, besides learning to rise at five to study calculus and trudge two miles through the drifts for breakfast down the road, he had suppressed some tremendous element in himself that took form in a prudish virginity. While his life was impeccable on the surface, he felt he was behind glass: moving through the world in a separate compartment, touching no one else.”

“He saw in that instant a life he could not conceive of opening before him, a hopeless abyss. Either way he was doomed: He did what was wrong, and condemned himself, or he did what was right, and remained a ghost.”

“Malone had been raised by a lady both Irish and Catholic, in a good bourgeois home in which careless table manners were a sin, much less this storm in his heart.”

“We lived only to dance. What was the true characteristic of a queen, I wondered later on; and you could argue that forever. “What do we all have in common in this group?” I once asked a friend seriously, when it occurred to me how slender, how immaterial, how ephemeral the bond was that joined us; and he responded, “We all have lips.” Perhaps that is what we all had in common: no one was allowed to be serious, except about the importance of music, the glory of faces seen in the crowd. We had our songs, we had our faces! We had our web belts and painter’s jeans, our dyed tank tops and haircuts, the plaid shirts, bomber jackets, jungle fatigues, the all-important shoes.”

 Return to the home page