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Writing under the influence

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 Alongside contributions by distinguished international critics, the book includes an unpublished interview with Hollinghurst and the eminent biographer Hermione Lee.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.

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Secrets in fiction and biography
Hermione Lee and Alan Hollinghurst

12 What can I say?: secrets in fiction and biography Hermione Lee interviews Alan Hollinghurst This conversation between Hermione Lee and Alan Hollinghurst took place on 8 February 2012 at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, Oxford. It was part of the Weinrebe Lectures, an annual lecture series at the Life-Writing Centre. Since the year’s theme was the connections between fiction and auto/biography, a conversation between a novelist and a biographer seemed an appropriate format. Hermione Lee: Alan Hollinghurst is one of our most daring

in Alan Hollinghurst
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Hollinghurst’s poetry
Bernard O’Donoghue

1 Abjuring innocence: Hollinghurst’s poetry Bernard O’Donoghue Although Alan Hollinghurst’s reputation as a leading novelist of his time is beyond question, it was important to be reminded by Rachel Cooke in her Observer interview with him on the occasion of the publication of The Stranger’s Child, in 2012, that ‘he wasn’t always going to be a novelist though. Poetry was his first love.’ At school, he says in that interview, he was fascinated by poetical forms; for example he wrote three sonnets for a competition on ‘the pleasures of life’. He says, ‘Being a

in Alan Hollinghurst
Sarah Brophy

9 Queer histories and postcolonial intimacies in Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty Sarah Brophy Funny how mere living in a house like this could have the look of a burglary.  (Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty, 2004) Heritage, home and spatial infiltration Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty (2004) de-familiarises a decade which, from the rise of neo-liberalism to the politicisation of gay identity in the context of AIDS, ‘seems to have determined so many things about the way we live now’.1 That the novel’s retrospective account of the 1980s

in End of empire and the English novel since 1945
Angus Brown

2 The touch of reading in Hollinghurst’s early prose Angus Brown The pleasure of the book It was the sex in Alan Hollinghurst’s fiction that first alerted me to the physicality of reading him. Absorbed in literary eroticism, critical distance shrank in embarrassment and fascination, inhibition and prurience, in swallowed twinges of disavowal and the engrossing insistence of arousal. As I read, I became more aware of the book in my hands, more sensitive to the feel of cover and page. This cutaneous friction left me open to an acute, embodied kind of reading. In

in Alan Hollinghurst
John McLeod

4 Race, empire and The Swimming-Pool Library John McLeod In ‘Saved by Art’, Alan Hollinghurst shapes a compelling and considered appreciation of the novels of Ronald Firbank. He juxtaposes their baroque, attenuated plots, treasured inconsequentiality and exquisite bon mots with the expansive and forensic writing of Marcel Proust and Henry James. ‘Firbank achieved his highly complex originality’, Hollinghurst writes, ‘not by expansion but by a drastic compression: instead of putting more and more in, he left almost everything out’.1 William Beckwith, the narrator

in Alan Hollinghurst
Denis Flannery

was your year. Setting out to explain the workings of the closet as a major formative force in Western culture, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick had surprising recourse then to Esther, your biblical drama of 1689. And Alan Hollinghurst, the late twentieth century’s most striking new novelist of something called ‘gay life’, found time in 1990, between the publication of The Swimming-Pool Library (1988) and The Folding Star (1994), to translate what became known as your ‘most violent and most frightening play’, Bajazet (1672).2 Hollinghurst’s version, directed by Peter Eyre, was

in Alan Hollinghurst
Bisexual camp in The Stranger’s Child
Joseph Ronan

6 Ostentatiously discreet: bisexual camp in The Stranger’s Child Joseph Ronan Alan Hollinghurst has suggested that there is ‘a lot in The Stranger’s Child which is rather liminal ... there’s quite a lot of bisexuality’.1 Despite this, the words ‘bisexual’ or ‘bisexuality’ appear exactly never in the novel’s 564 pages. A number of characters display what we might reasonably consider bisexual behaviour yet bisexuality in this novel is unnamed, perhaps unnameable. Similarly, many responses to the novel, even those which do describe some characters as bisexual, have

in Alan Hollinghurst
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A dialogue on influence
Michèle Mendelssohn and Denis Flannery

Introduction: a dialogue on influence Michèle Mendelssohn and Denis Flannery MM: This collection is the result of a serendipitous conversation you and I had many years ago. So, perhaps unusually, we have decided to forgo the traditional editors’ introduction and to use dialogue instead. DJF: That’s right. We first thought of this collection while talking by the ocean at a Henry James conference in Newport, Rhode Island. MM: Alan Hollinghurst: Writing Under the Influence explores the way in which Hollinghurst is in conversation with his various influences. It

in Alan Hollinghurst
Michèle Mendelssohn

3 Poetry, parody, porn and prose Michèle Mendelssohn In 1982, Alan Hollinghurst published a collection of poems he called Confidential Chats with Boys. He introduced the topic of his lyric conversation matter-of-factly: There are things in trousers called men, almost too well-mannered, passing as gentlemen – human skunks hatched from rattlesnakes’ eggs. You meet them in fashionable hotels where families stay, playing croquet and the gallant, sought after for charades; their impersonations are famous. (CCB 1) When he wrote this, aged twenty-eight, Hollinghurst

in Alan Hollinghurst