What books are we reading at Polari HQ this week?
Clayton Littlewood – How To Be Gay by David M. Halperin
Now you would have thought at my advanced age I’d know every trick in the book (and have booked every trick) but it appears not. Inspired by an undergraduate course of the same name, Halperin suggests that gayness is a specific way of being that gay men must learn from one another to become who they are. He concludes that, “the genius of gay culture resides in some of its most despised features: its aestheticism, snobbery, melodrama, adoration of glamour, caricatures of women and obsession with mothers”. Well I was raised on a diet of John Waters, Abigail’s Party, Wood and Walters, having sex in transit vans and hanging out in theatre bars – but I’m prepared to give it a go. I’ll let you know how I get on…
Christopher Bryant – A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
I started reading George R.R. Martin’s gargantuan series A Song of Ice and Fire after watching season one of Game of Thrones. As soon as I finished the second book I went straight on to the third. Then the fourth. Then I waited a couple of days to start the fifth. I’d tried to read A Game of Thrones before I watched the HBO series, but I didn’t get past the first chapter. I have an in-built resistance to fantasy novels. I hate the sonorous language, the rigidly patriarchal power structures, the one-dimensional good vs. evil, and the general stiffness of it all. Martin’s Westeros is the complete opposite. And there is no tiresome speechifying.
There was a 6 year gap between books four and five, and so I am preparing myself for the hellish wait for book six … whenever that may be.
Michael Langan – Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
I was worried that the follow-up to Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall wouldn’t match that book’s brilliance, but Mantel has once again taken a story that we all think we know and made it read as if it’s happening before your very eyes. This second volume of her trilogy exploring the life of Thomas Cromwell, one of the key players in the Tudor court, takes us up to the execution of Ann Boleyn and she may well do the Booker double. Mantel transcends the historical genre with her masterful story telling, while the depth and subtlety of characterisation are breathtaking and, line for line, her prose writing is peerless. I, for one, can’t wait for volume three – The Mirror and the Light – due out next year.
Bryon Fear – Revenant by Tristan Hughes
Curiosity will get the better of me I swear… I have always said, that if was a cat, I would be dead by now, my nine lives cashed-in long ago. So, when I spied this book on a shelf in Camden Lock Books, in Old Street Tube Station (one of the best independent bookshops in London by the way) I was compelled to purchase it immediately. You see, I went to school with the author, who even back then foretold that he would be a novelist after his schooling came to an end. I suspect not many of his fellow pupils believed such grandiose exclamations, but bugger me, he really did become a novelist and this book is one of four penned by him. I chose Revenant because it is a tale of four high school friends set at the time and place when I knew the author… if anything it will be interesting to see our school years through his eyes.