Saturday, 19 February 2011

Blowjobs, weddings, pole-dancing - and a lesson on how to write about them



John-John, Paul(ine), (MySpace) Tony and I trolled off to the Fifth Floor Function Room at the Royal Festival Hall, with its spectacular views of the London Eye, for the first of Paul Burston's "peerless literary gay salons" Polari of 2011. In an almost packed room, we spotted loads of regulars - Jeannie, Joe Storey-Scott and his regular table, Suzie Feay with Paul's hubby Paulo and many others including previous reader Helen Sandler who joined us at our table for the festivities.

Paul B opened proceedings through a murky cold, before introducing the first reader. A new Polari discovery, the as yet unpublished Paul Harding began the evening with a bang with his slightly smutty, attention-grabbing story about a couple in Greece, an (unfortunately made public) illicit blowjob in a club toilet, superstition about how an exchange of fluids between men defines "tribal ownership", and the mayhem that ensues. Good stuff - hope to hear more of this man in the future!



Journalist and political writer Mark Gevisser's [pic above] story of his same-sex wedding to his partner in modern South Africa was at once very funny and also revealing. The sea-change in attitudes to gay people post-apartheid appears in sharp contrast to the dreadful wave of evangelical homophobia that is currently criss-crossing the rest of that benighted continent - read Mark's recent article on that very subject. His account of the jolly registrar practically demanding that they make more fuss about their wedding, and her pride in the way she created the displays in the wedding room itself was wonderfully pertinent:
"When I said I did not think we would be doing rings, she really thought she had my number. She looked up at me, in counselling mode now: “Do you think you are a second-class citizen just because you are gay? You have full rights in this new South Africa. You have the right to make a fuss.” Here I was, an entirely empowered middle-class, middle-aged white man, being lectured by a young black woman about my rights." Read more
Mr Gevisser apparently touched upon a the experiences of a few people in the room - not least Paul Burston himself, who likened it to his own experience in Lambeth Town Hall...

Lowering the tone somewhat - to our delight - the ebullient Lauren Henderson aka Rebecca Chance took to the stage to read from her "bonk-buster" Divas, which, even from the brief extract she read, appears to be exactly what is says on the tin:
"...the story of a beautiful, spoilt heiress - Lola. A sexy pole dancer - Evie. And Carin, the evil stepmother with the cold blue eyes of a Siberian husky who does her best to ruin Lola and Evie's lives. When Carin takes everything the girls have, their only hope is to join forces and fight back to regain Lola's inheritance and Evie's diamond pasties. With an action-packed plot full of wild sex, glamorous locations, and murder... it will take you on the ride of your life!"


Hilarious stuff! We all agreed this would make a ridiculously camp and glossy TV series worthy of the legacy of Dynasty, Flamingo Road and Falcon Crest. We were overjoyed when the lady herself came and joined us at our table (John-John and Tony both bought copies for her to sign) - she is every bit as sassy and saucy as her novels! She promised us that on her next appearance she would read a particularly smutty piece from either Divas or its successor Bad Girls, involving (female) fists up (male) bottoms just for us - phew!! Visit Rebecca's website for reviews, extracts and more.

After a bit of an extended fag and booze break, we settled down again for esteemed author Lois Walden (who has worked with major artists such as Dionne Warwick and Jane Fonda, and was part of the singing group The Sisters of Glory), reading from her (almost) autobiographical novel One More Stop. The story, about a woman's passage through the American Mid-West following the suicide of her mother, towards a gradual acceptance of and celebration of her own lesbianism with the help of flings, encounters and friends, was charming and very entertaining indeed! Read more on Lois Walden's official website.



Our star-billing author of the night however was Green Carnation Prize winner Christopher Fowler, who not only took us through the journey that led to his winning novel and masterwork Paperboy - read my recent review of this fabulous book - and read a lengthy extract from it, but also gave us a little teaser about his planned follow-up book, and a bit of a lesson on how to be a successful writer to boot! In his words:
"Don’t write about what you know. Write about what you feel, what you imagine... Write about what you don’t know".
Sage words to bear in mind... Visit Christopher Fowler's website to see how brilliant a writer he really is!

And so soon, it was all over again for another month. Apparently there are one or two surprises in store for the next one - currently only "Michael Arditti, Nick Alexander, VG Lee and more" are mentioned - and I cannot wait!

Polari

4 comments:

  1. It was a great night and what a detailed review - I do really love these Polari evenings more than I expect - they're not stuffy at all and I left on Friday with what looks like tow great new books to read.

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  2. or even two great books to read ...

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed myself yet again - it has long been my favourite regular night out in London! Good to see you too... Jx

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  4. Such a varied line up, a great mix of old and new, familiar and unfamiliar with a cabaret vibe. I love Polari!

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