Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Byzantine orgies, hot water bottles, punks and fairy tales...

Paul Burston's 'peerless gay literary salon' always manages to pull out the stops in first-class entertainment! Last night's Polari was not "officially" themed, but there was definitely a thread of smuttiness going on (thank heavens!)...

Our opening reader was newcomer Achilleas Mavrellis, a scholar of ancient history (in particular the decadent Byzantine epoch), who has only recently tried his hand at fiction rather than his usual non-fictional works. His piece - about the burgeoning love between two male heroes in the turbulent 9th century - was a fascinating read. In his own words:
"King of Lies covers the drama behind real events in which a bisexual Macedonian peasant became Emperor Basil I. This is one of the largely forgotten turning points in European history where, in the space of a few decades, the Slavic tribes emerged from pre-literacy, the Moslem invasion of Europe was averted, the Church split and the Pope cemented his primacy through falsehood."
Mr Mavrellis' fabulous website is called Empire Forever.

Taking a leap from the depths of obscure historical queeniness to more recent times, the rather cute (in a "Noah Claypole" sort of way) Nathan Evans (who is the man behind some of David Hoyle's shows at the Vauxhall Tavern as well as being a writer) related his tale of a naive gay lad and his unrequited passion (in all senses) for a punk eco-warrior during the riots around Parliament. Stirring stuff! You can read the entire story on his website.

Mitzi Szereto is a very inventive writer indeed... Not for her the grey world of reality - oh no, she turns beloved fairy tales into randy filth! In her fertile imagination, "The Giant Turnip" is certainly no vegetable, and princesses are required to scrub each other's lady gardens in the bath... In Sleeping Beauty's Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales is available from Foyles.

After the break it was time for a couple of the "regulars" to take a turn. First off was the lovely Nick Alexander, reading from his brand new novel The Case of the Missing Boyfriend. This is a marvellous story, told (disconcertingly for a male reader) in the first person perspective by a female advertising executive, and features her gay best friend and their adventures in the snooty, queeny, bitchy world of art exhibitions - fabulous! Buy it today!

One of our favourite readers V.G. (Val) Lee didn't disappoint us again last night - starting as she did by admitting she finds it difficult to write about sex ("I prefer to tell stories about hot water bottles"). Yet her story A Slice of Melon is certainly lesbian erotica - even if in a typically unconventional tone:
"When Kelly said, “Fancy a shag?” Laura replied, “Don’t mind if I do,” which seemed to satisfy Kelly, although Laura wasn’t too happy with her own choice of words. "Don’t mind if I do" was what Norma Next Door said to offers of tea, cake, Pringles, and Bacardi and Coke. Fortunately Kelly didn’t know Norma Next Door."

We love Val, and her anthology of short stories (from whence this one comes) As You Step Outside is excellent, and highly recommended!

Headlining this event was the erudite and eloquent Michael Arditti, making a most welcome return visit. He read a passage from his tour-de-force novel Pagan and her Parents - a stirring account of the court battle between the grandparents of the eponymous child Pagan and the gay man who was designated by her deceased mother to be the child's guardian.

I was gripped - and I really must get hold of a copy of the book at some stage just to see how the story ends up! Read more (and order a copy) via Michael's website.

A cracker of an evening - and once again we had a "Polari virgin" with us in the shape of our friend Maria, who thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the experience as much as Paul, Jim, John-John and I!

Roll on the next one - and hopefully the first of Paul B's promised "surprise readers" - on Monday 11 April, with (so far announced) Adam Mars-Jones, Issy Festing, Michael Menzies, Timothy Blackwell, Dmitry Kuzmin and Paul Bailey.


  1. A wonderful evening and an array of talent. One of my favourite Polari's. J-Jx

  2. It was great, wasn't it? Jx

  3. It does sound like a great evening, hopefully I will be free for the next one in April as I think I'm on holiday for May's one … so I hope to get some good holiday reading in before being left with Books Etc choices at Gatwick.

    Reading your Polari blogs I feel like I was there even when I've not been.


  4. meant to say, I saw a couple of Nathan Evans puppet shows at Duckie and also The Morrissey Night - he's very talented and I love his off beat humour x

  5. Hope to see you at the next one, Tony - John-John is planning to book tickets, if you want to pop him a note through... Jx


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