Saturday, October 4, 2014


Popular literature is widely read but scarcely given the consideration it merits. It is a genre that has become a subject matter for certain strands of academia but still remains exegetically marginalized.And indeed categories like popular and classic are so indeterminate. Shakespeare was popular in his day and age, as was dickens, as was Austen.

I read on google that Paul Burston was comparable to Jane Austen. While Austen is indubitably a great writer the comparison is invidious, recalling those 'three inches of ivory'. Well, Paul Burston's concerns are much larger and polemical. And reading the novel 'The gay divorcee' was a demonstration of not only the plausibility of the scenario he presents but also the perspicacity behind it, the awareness that the underbelly of gay life is not only in the streets, in violence but at the very heart of how we navigate sexual and personal identity. Such a representation is not just a 'popular ' effect but an indication of the currents of denial, dysfunctionality, repression, hope, optimism, grief in short the entire compendium of human complexity and depth.

While Skipping plot details i do think this book is a must read because it is about human nature. While lgbtiq audiences will find much that is prepossessing in this delightful book other readers too will find much that is entertaining and moving. Reviewers on amazon  often used the word formulaic but the real challenge ,for a writer, is to transcend the zeitgeist they engage with. Paul Burston does just that. He is not obliged to be Hollinghurst because he is unequivocally, ineluctably himself. And his work on polari, for polari is revolutionary and brilliant. This one novel makes me curious enough to seek out his other books and i intend to very soon.

The lgbtiq community needn't stand out as incongruous. Our otherness is as much a perception of those who deny us our being as of some of us within ourselves, a self splintering. Paul Burston's celebration of gay culture, with a honest, witty, funny yet serious perspective is venerable. Our literature is growing up now, not only Hollinghurst but Sarah waters, Vg lee, Ali smith who are breasting choppy waters and emerging triumphant. Paul Burston's navigation through the heart of our concerns may putatively be popular but is ultimately a rumbustious, wise, empathetic, incandescent and affirmative acknowledgement of the cornucopia of what makes us who we are. And for this he should be celebrated. 

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