Poetry, parody, porn and prose
in Alan Hollinghurst
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This chapter explores the playful parodies and erotic charades that pervade Hollinghurst’s work – from poems to novels including The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star and The Line of Beauty. The chapter examines two interrelated questions: how does Hollinghurst’s work use literary and visual allusions – particularly sexological manuals and pornography? And how do these allusions renegotiate the parameters of camp? His dirty-looking stories prompt double-takes. But they also repay a second, closer examination. Their insights into the human condition and sensitive explorations of grief go far beyond the frisson induced by the first wink. Despite the works’ sexual exuberance, they acknowledge that sex cannot make up for everything else: a moment of connection does not soften the fundamental disconnects Hollinghurst pinpoints. The chapter argues that erotic, literary and visual allusions measure the distance between characters and reveal the different modes of attention required by the world beyond pornography and erotic interplay.

Alan Hollinghurst

Writing under the influence

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