Thursday, May 11, 2006

Big Gay Read

The very idea (my italics) of "gay fiction" makes my blood boil - surely fiction is just fiction, right? At what point does it become "gay fiction"? Does it have to include rimming? Is it the author who has to be gay? Or the reader? Do you get points taken off for "straight" themes and characters? etc. etc. I'm sure you get my point. However, that said, as a list freak I was, of course, intrigued to see what British readers had voted as their favourite lesbian or gay novel. According to this article in The Guardian, the top five were:
  • "Tales of the City" by Armistead Maupin
  • "Tipping the Velvet" by Sarah Waters
  • "Oranges are not the Only Fruit" by Jeanette Winterson
  • "Trumpet" by Jackie Kay
  • "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters (again)
I was surprised to see that not only had I read four of the five (the odd one out is "Trumpet") but also that four of them (but not the same four) would fall into the loose category of "lesbian fiction". I am a closet muff-worrier, obviously. Ridiculous. Are we to conclude that lesbians read more than gay men (who are all too busy thinking about what to wear and Britney's baby, perhaps)? The only other book in the Top 10 that I've read was "The Line of Beauty" by Alan Hollinghurst - hardly "gay" at all in my opinion, but there you go. I find it all very strange and annoying. Most of these are just great books. Full stop. I can hear the whirring (yet again) of the wheels of the great marketing machine spinning into life...


Rob7534 said...

I for one prefer my gay fiction to have copious amounts of rimming! But I understand the point of your argument, I think. That they need not be needlessly obtuse in trying to classify a novel as "gay" just because there are a gay character or two in it.

If that was the "litmus test" so to speak, then how many other books can now be reclassified as "gay fiction" by Dickinson, Shakespeare, Chauser et al...!

By the way I haven't read of those, but I did WATCH tales of the city on tv. Does that make me a bad gay?

rhino75 said...

It doesn't make you a bad gay, Rob, but it DOES make you a bad lesbian. I, on the other hand, am a bad gay but an EXCELLENT lesbian. Who knew? No wonder I like Dusty Springfield.

Reluctant Nomad said...

I always knew you were a lesbian, Rhino! I just knew it! :-)

But, sticking to the theme of gay fiction, did you read this article in the guardian:,,1763857,00.html

And did you know that in the next few weeks, The Line of Beauty will be a 4 (or is it 6?) part series on BBC? I'm really looking forward to it.

rhino75 said...

Thanks Nomad, interesting article. But again, completely partial. Lots of small publishing houses - regardless of whether or not they publish "gay fiction" - have been forced out of business by the majors. It IS a shame but is all to do with business and nothing to do with homophobia. And writing like this - "Alan Hollinghurst's Booker Prize-winning coke-and-sodomy epic The Line of Beauty" - does nothing to help matters. LoB is not a "gay" book, in my opinion, but more a slice of a particular moment in history (Thatcher's Britain). It reminded me a lot of Anthony Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time" in that respect. It is most definitely NOT a "coke-and-sodomy epic". That said, I am SO excited about the TV series - I'm hoping they're going to show it on BBC Prime (the only BBC we get here). I rather like the look of Alex Wyndham, who is going to be playing Wani ... yumm ;)

Reluctant Nomad said...

I agree with all you say and with your comparison to 'A Dance to the Music of Time'.

I'm sure that it will be shown on BBC Prime at some stage but doesn't BBC Prime take a while before showing things?

I don't think I know who Alex Wyndham is or what he looks like.

rhino75 said...

I know, I'm sure it will be out on DVD before it makes it onto "Prime", which is basically a lot of "TopGear" interspersed with programmes about Brits moving to the sun. Though it DOES show "Eastenders", so I mustn't knock it too much. Here is Alex Wyndham's RADA profile. He looked better in a feature the Evening Standard did on rising talents while I was in London a couple of weeks ago, and I'm sure he'll be fab in LoB.

Reluctant Nomad said...

Mmmm...rather nice, I'd say! Can't say that I've seen him before.