The Stranger’s Child and the One Topic Pony

This blog has been quiet recently, but not due to lack of material. I, like many of you, have been getting an absolute beasting at work. These have been the days of panic and horror, the days where you start sweating with stress at 9.15am; the days where your heart doesn’t return to normal pace until the bus home. For someone working in such a frivolous industry (advertising), there sure are a few diabolical crises.

Personally, most of these are down to a fear of one group of people I work with: the creatives, or more specifically, the Creative Directors. Feedback comes in which you just know will make them blow, and you have to run around like some sort of electron on amphetamines to try and allay the rage that, with some of them, inevitably comes your way. I’m sick of it. It’s all worth it if they’re talented and pleasant, but that holy duo seems not to be in the recruitment criteria. There is one in particular, with whom I have daily contact, who is renowned for reproducing one design feature over and over again, in marginally different iterations, and is hands down the most hostile and unpleasant person I’ve ever met. And holds an excessively senior position for those virtues. And if this blog is ever found by anyone at work, I’m fired.

Now watch while I link this rant seamlessly to this post’s book.

You may remember that I was a huge fan of Alan Hollinghurst’s writing style in ‘The Line of Beauty’ – but that the 80s-thatcherite-cokesnorting-rentboy-gay-sex was all a bit much for me. When I discovered his new book had just come out (operative phrase, to which I’ll return) to some fanfare, and a glimpse at the sleeve revealed a linked story through the 20th century / a 1913 beginning, I knew I was on to a winner and bought myself a shiny hardback as a Christmas present to myself.

But. Just as my fellow at work can only produce one design feature, it seems Hollinghurst only has any interest writing about people who are gay. Before I seem hideously homophobic, can I explain my objection nothing to do with gayness or gay people persay. It’s that I object to an author writing every book in which every character shares a significant similarity (especially when this link isn’t really fundamental to the workings of the story in some places.) You may say that many books feature exclusively heterosexuals; well, it’s still odd to write a book in which every male character is gay, and where of the 2 female characters, one is a lesbian and the other strangely sex-less and marries only gay men.

I soon started to find this very frustrating in ‘The Stranger’s Child.’ If a male character of any import is introduced – well, he’s gay. Or he was gay and is now supressing it, wishing he was out there, being gay. And, more or less, that’s it. The characters react to it in different ways, but there’s not much more depth than that. Am I being post-post-post-modern to hope that someone’s sexuality is but one facet of their complicated and unique make-up?

I don’t know if Hollinghurst himself is gay, but from the statistical picture I’ve gathered from The Stranger’s Child, he bloody must be.


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