Friday, 29 October 2010

The Line of Beauty

I posted a while ago that I wanted to get more into gay culture. Having consciously avoided it before I came out then skirted around it since then I thought it time to jump in and begin to explore that area of culture.

The first thing I got to grips with was The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. It is set in the 1980s and the main protagonist is Nick, a young gay guy who is out to his friends and family, but at the start of the story a virgin. A strong background to the story is Nick exploring his sexuality, from dating to cruising to drugs and group sex – but the book isn’t overly sexual or overly focussed on sexuality. It deals nicely with hypocrisy and how homophobia can linger under a veneer of acceptance. For instance, when one of the other main characters is exposed as an adulterer he accuses Nick of sabotaging his family with a “typical gay trick” – because gays can’t have families of their own they spoil other people’s. In another scene a couple of openly-homophobic upper-class people welcome HIV as a lesson to teach gays to be more careful.

At the end of the book Nick is alone, but has made some progress in the world; the two main love interests of his have died of AIDS, and he has lost his home but he is not resourceless. Because he has never been fully involved in family or social life because of his sexuality there is a nice underlying metaphor for the hypocrisy and materialism of the Thatcher years. He is surrounded by beautiful things and people, but ultimately they elude him.

In other news, I have joined the LGBT network at my workplace. It was/is nice to meet colleagues in the context of being gay rather than colleagues who happen to be gay and surrounded by people who aren’t. On the serious side we are the forum to test our employer’s policies and actions under the brand-spanking-new equality legislation that covers sexuality; and to try and get them onto the Stonewall Employers Equality Index. On the fun side there is the opportunity to socialise. I hope to make a valuable contribution...

So there we have it, gentle reader, a wee bit of culture, and a bit of getting-involvedness. Square one done and dusted!


MadeInScotland said...

Very much liking the new look! AHOJ!!

Flo said...

It's been a while since I read The Line of Beauty and I found it a strange book. A lot of it left me cold - I found the excess of sex, drug-taking and greed to be powerful metaphors for the materialism and selfishness of the Thatcher years (obviously) and when you plain don't like Thatcher, those sorts of allusions are rather hard to relate to. The book has stayed with me however. I really liked the main character, Nick, and saw him as very pure at heart if ultimately naive, only realising at the end the difference between surface and inner beauty. In a few key places the writing really jumps off the page as well: when Nick sees Leo naked for the first time; when he has his showdown with the vile and hypocritical Gerald; and at the very end of the novel, when he leaves the Fedden's home for the last time. I think you would enjoy the TV adaptaion - it is faithful to the book and the casting is just perfect.

Gauss Jordan said...

Hey, good deal on the GLBT network. I'm in the one at my company as well. It's a bit frustrating, though. They're all at a *completely* different stage in life from me. I'm the only person under 30 that shows up to most things. All of the gay people my age just sort of inherently are in their own shadow network, separate from the "official" one. Kinda frustrating.

Ha! Verification word: "sucks."