Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Three Tims, badger duvets, Italian Mammas and provincial lesbian drama

Another gay day, another Polari!

In the last of the season's "peerless gay literary salons" (Paul takes a break in August), we were filled with anticipation of the announcement of the long-list of entrants for the Polari First Book Prize, and no less than three authors all called "Tim".

Paul Burston, last night representing "The Gay Mafia" in his dapper suit, was a little flushed at trying to organise disappearing speakers and shmooze his fantabulosa audience (including the lovely and ever-so-eccentric Miss Helen Lederer, who joined John-John and I at our table), but eventually all seemed to go to plan...

The first of the Tims, opening the show, was (the rather cute) Mr Brady, reading from his novel Big Ben. In the four extracts he read, our eponymous hero goes from ostensibly straight Italian newcomer to London, through embarrassing "outing" by a horny ex-girlfriend who catches him in bed with a Brazilian, to the rather hilarious attempt to keep meddling Mamma apart from said shag (with no success, unfortunately for him). Very enjoyable indeed! Mr Brady missed the deadline for the prize this year, but hopes his novel will go forward for the 2012 one.

Our second Tim, Mr Graves, told a far darker and spookier tale, Bright Fire of Morning all about an obsessive sexual encounter between a lad and what might have been a sexy demon, or ghost, or..? Sublimely told, you could hear a pin drop across the whole room as the slightly creepy story unfolded...

From the sinister to the cynical, the fabulously entertaining William Parker read us the tale of an archetypal grumpy old man - an elderly gent from very posh surroundings who has found himself in the awfulness of a nursing home, with its dementia sufferers, zimmer frames, duvets (which move around like “a demented badger”, unlike familiar blankets) and dreadful food. Mr Parker's short story features in the forthcoming sequel to last year's gay anthology Boys & Girls, called (naturally) Men & Women (also edited by Paul Burston, it launches on 14 July) - totally enthralling stuff!

After the break, our perennial Polari favourite the lovely V.G. (Val) Lee had us in stitches with her wonderfully witty tale of Lucky Patricia (also included in Men & Women): our heroine's found herself a new sophisticated girlfriend, and it has rather shaken up the cosy lesbian social circle in rural Hastings! As always, Val proved to be a true star, and a brilliant entertainer...

Next up, our third Tim, this time Mr Arthur (son of Playschool host Toni Arthur, no less), who - as he admitted - was sorry to lower the tone somewhat with his grim tale of one backwoods American woman's sordid revenge on her abusive husband. Involving a cage in the basement and some humiliating sexual favours, this is just one of a series of tales in his book The Blind Dog Gospels, all told from the warped imagination of an individual dying of cancer of the optic nerve. Thankfully, Mr Arthur was a very jolly reader, which lightened the piece somewhat!

Paul and "partner in crime" Rachel Holmes, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre, announced the Polari First Book Prize long list:
  • Julian Corkle Is A Filthy Liar – DJ Connell
  • Same Again Please - Michael B Jones
  • London Triptych – Jonathan Kemp
  • The Bird Keeper – Issy Festing
  • Love, Hope and High Heels – Clare Campbell
  • I Don’t Remember You – Stephanie Lennox
  • Children of the Sun – Max Schaefer
  • Autofellatio – James Maker
  • Homo Jihad – Timothy Graves
  • C’est La Vie – Bruce Hodson

Our final turn of the evening was the lovely lady lesbian DJ Connell, reading first from her prize-nominated Julian Corkle Is A Filthy Liar (which we first encountered at Polari back last November, alongside Mr Parker); the hilarious story of the campest little queen growing up in the most stifling of backgrounds in 1970s Tasmania). She also gave us a teaser of her new novel Sherry Cracker Gets Normal, which launches next week.

Another absolute corker of an evening! I will miss Polari next month...


  1. I was sorry not to make this Polari but I really needed the break from nights out - I ended with 6 consecutive nights out … and then I was out again tonight …

    Helen Lederer looks like a total blast - love the pictures of her with you and John-John xox

  2. Oh, the never ending social whirl! We're off to see Alison Steadman in conversation tonight...

    You missed another great evening at Polari - shame. Jx

  3. Enjoy Alison Steadman - that should be a great night x

  4. Sorry I couldn't make it too. Again, the age-old reason of no one to look after the child! I'll be missing the next one at the RVT for the same reason. Hopefully come September I'll be able to make it. Do you know when the Sept one is? I'll stick in the diary now!


  5. "The next one at the RVT"? No comprende... Anyway, Paul has yet to announce the September Polari date, but I can ask him on Thursday at the launch of "Boys and Girls" and we can note down the date! Jx


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