Monday, April 23, 2012

But was great anyway …

… The career that didn't go like clockwork - The Irish Times - Mon, Apr 23, 2012. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
How good was Anthony Burgess? Very good indeed; he possessed rare, unclassifiable genius, originality and a love of language. Above all, he was driven by wayward intellectual energy, a quality rarely welcomed by the lesser, conventional minds of an establishment always eager to classify.

I entirely concur.


  1. Hi Frank, this may seem off-topic but Burgess has been the centre of much discussion among gay people since Earthly Powers' narrator was gay. People have speculated on his sexuality and there are forums devoted to this. The final word, in my view goes to someone who said, and I quote:
    Anthony Burgess is completely frank in his own biography. I believe he mentions that he might have regretted not being homosexual. But not being, he was quite evidently perfectly comfortable with himself as he was, and that together with his being also a remarkably intelligent and observant man made him sympathetic to all aspects of human nature. I think this insistence on 'gay' literature, books about homosexuals written by homosexuals, is very unfortunate, and tends to produce tedious polemics or self-pitying introspections at the expense of 'art'

  2. Frank, I concur as well.

    Vikram, the first few sentences of what you quote here are wonderful and to the point. And the last sentence demonstrates exactly why sexual orientation still matters to many: because this kind of dismissal exhibits the kind of prejudice that the uppity gays are protesting against. So the person being quoted just started out well but ending up just recycling the question again. LOL

  3. Art, strange since I kinda agree with the second part more. In my view, there are two kinds of gay fiction, just as there are two kinds of all subaltern fiction. One is the looking-at-the-world-through-the-prism of one's subaltern identity, and for that, of course one needs to be gay. To wit, Alan Hollinghurst. The other is fiction where people are people and their thisness (or Haecceity, a word Frank loves) is subsumed under the narrative. To pen such fiction, and I cant think of an example right now, maybe Armistad Maupin's Tales of the City, one needn't be gay. Of course, the best gay story I have read is Brokeback Mountain, written by the very straight Annie Proulx.

  4. The gay narrator of Earthly Powers is very clearly modeled on Somerset Maugham. As for the gay literature business, Ned Rorem likes to say that he is not a gay composer and that there are no such creatures. There are composers who happen to be gay. I think human society will be normal when these distinctions are regards as something on the order of hair color.

  5. Frank, couldn't agree with you more, although when society will be considered 'normal' is open to lengthy debate and frankly not something I would like to see happen within gay lit.
    I respectfully don't hold with the idea that there are 'two types of gay fiction'. Are there only two types of straight fiction? If a writer traps him/her self within their own prismatic identity then that is a failure on their part, not on the 'identity' of what they produce.