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.
Focusing through the concept of influence, this collection considers the entire breadth of Alan Hollinghurst’s Booker Prize-winning writing. It addresses critical issues threaded through the work of Britain’s most important contemporary novelist. Chapters encompass provocative and timely subjects ranging from gay visual cultures and representations, to Victorian, modernist and contemporary literature, as well as race and empire, theatre and cinema, eros, translation and economics. Revealing the often troubled tissue of weighty affect that lies beneath the poise and control of Hollinghurst’s writing, this book addresses readers interested in question of subjectivity, history and desire, as well as those curious about biography and literary experimentation. Alongside contributions by distinguished international critics, the book includes an unpublished interview with Hollinghurst and the eminent biographer Hermione Lee. With critical energy and creative flair, Alan Hollinghurst: Writing Under the Influence provokes a new account of Hollinghurst’s work that is both authoritative and innovative.
Written in the form of a dialogue between editors Michele Mendelssohn and Denis Flannery, this introduction explores the book's principles and summarises its specific chapters. Emphasising the extent to which the collection is a historically-tessellated exploration of the breadth of Hollinghurst's output, it explores the varied ways in which he is in dialogue with his various influences. For the writers in this collection, a sense of 'influence' emerges that is, while genial and accepting, also not devoid of antagonism and shadow. The extent to which susceptibility to influence can be read as a form of intoxication as well as a world-making state of primal vulnerability is also emphasised. The introduction stresses the extent to which Hollinghurst breaks new ground even as he prowls the precincts of well-established literary traditions. These traditions extend beyond the novel and encompass poetry, translation and theatre in his oeuvre which is also, the book also emphasises, richly in dialogue with cinema as a cultural force and with recent developments in critical theory.