This week’s book haul

First up this week, ‘RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR’ by Philip Hoare: ‘In this watery book, Philip Ho20170715_092307_resized[600]are goes in pursuit of human and animal stories of the sea…Along the way he encounters drowned poets and eccentric artists, modernist writers and era-defining performers, wild utopians and national heroes…Out of the storm clouds of the twenty-first century and out restive time, these stories reach back into the past and forward into the future. This is a shape-shifting world that has never been certain, caught between the natural and the unnatural, where the state between human and animal is blurred. Time, space, gender and species become as fluid as the sea.’  I haven’t read anything from Philip Hoare in a long time, but he produced one of my favourite books, ‘Oscar Wilde’s Last Stand’, which looks in detail at the Maud Allen case of the early twentieth century. An actress of some renown, Maud Allen was to perform Oscar Wilde’s ‘Salome’ in London. Coming not long after Wilde’s prosecution an20170715_105021_resized[604]d imprisonment, this was a controversial decision in itself…and what Allen didn’t count on was the demented intervention of the MP Noel Pemberton Billing. The First World War was in full swing and hatred of Germany and homophobia collided in Pemberton Billing’s mind, conjuring up ‘The Cult of the Clitoris’, a group of 47,000 British people who were, he believed, a danger to the state as their (homo)sexuality made them prone to German blackmail, thus forcing them to spy for the enemy. He accused Allen of being a member of this ‘group’ and she took him to court for libel. It is a great story and a great book.

Next up is an impulse buy, ‘This Young Monster’ by Charlie Fox. Published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in their beautiful but simple house style, ‘This Young Monster’ 20170715_092245_resized[601]promises to be ‘a hallucinatory celebration of artists who raise hell, transform their bodies, anger their elders and show their audience dark, disturbing things. What does it mean to be a freak? Why might we be wise to think of the resent as a time of monstrosity? And how does the concept of the monster irradiate our thinking about queerness, disability, children and adolescents?’ Flicking through the book I see glimpses of  Peter Pan, Twin Peaks, ‘Freaks’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, Claude Cahun, Leigh Bowery, Divine, Fassbinder, Diane Arbus, Macaulay Culkin, ‘Heathers’…to name but a few. It certainly gets my juices flowing…


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