This novel takes place almost entirely in a backstreet homosexual bar frequented by a motley collection of world-weary regulars. The bar is presided over by the owner, Madame, who looks after her boys, ensuring that the haven remains inviolate. Then one day an innocent young man walks in.
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Neil Bartlett was born in 1958. His first book was the ground-breaking queer study of Oscar Wilde, Who Was That Man?, published in 1988, and his other novels are Mr Clive and Mr Page (1996), Skin Lane (2007) and The Disappearance Boy (2014). His fiction has been shortlisted for the Costa and Whitbread Awards, and in 2014 he was nominated as Stonewall Author of the Year. In 2000 he was awarded an OBE for his work in the theatre as a director and playwright. You can find out more about Neil's current work, and contact him, at www.neil-bartlett.comFrom Kirkus Reviews:
An erotic fable, chockablock with literary allusion, about a homosexual subculture obsessed with a young man and his older lover. British writer Bartlett's fable--by turns graphic and romantic--traces the growth of the community from narcissism to tragedy and an apprehension of mortality. The narrator--the voice of the subculture--writes from a nameless city about the affair and eventual ``marriage'' of Boy and O, his older lover. The action centers on The Bar, run by Madame, a sort of earth mother protector. When the Boy arrives at The Bar, it's a great event to the narrator and his group, transforming their existence. The Boy, with his black shoes and shoebox full of letters from ``Father,'' would ``go home with anyone really.'' He's initiated by Miss Public House, who teaches him the ``repertoires of what you could and couldn't do....'' O was always at Madame's right hand, though never intimate with her. ``By sheer force of will power,'' Mother and the group try to push O and the Boy (``our two greatest beauties'') together. Finally, they become lovers, ``the kind of wanting which extends beyond the night into the day.'' Against a backdrop of gay-bashing in the vicinity, O and the Boy carry on their courtship, with O indulging various ``nocturnal speeches,'' before they announce their engagement, have a great costume party, and marry. This Family then takes sick ``Father'' home, and the Boy tends him through the stages of his illness until he becomes aphasic and dies, whereupon The Bar shuts for the seven days of the Family's mourning, and Madame (now Mother) leaves. But O ``will always be handsome. And Boy will always be beautiful, I think.'' This one survives some first-novel tics--mostly self-conscious literariness and cutesiness--to succeed as a celebration of homosexual love. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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