Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Trannies with taste, Chief whipped, Tintin, girls' private parts and the Gay Cranford



Ange, Paul, Jim, John-John and I trolled along to another highly-anticipated Polari last night at the lovely Level 5 function room, with its views of the London Eye and Parliament.



Bloody marvellous, it was too!



After a suitably gothic introduction from our host Paul Burston (resplendent in shiny black feather cowl and Crow Man hat for Hallowe'en), we opened proceedings with the very elegant Robin Anderson, who gave us a rather funny anecdote about how the name of one of his novels came about. When Old Compton Street was full of roadworks a few years ago, Mr Anderson was due to do a book reading at Balans Café. He approached a workman to ask when the "bloody mess" would be gone - "I cannot expect my guests to arrive in the middle of a bomb-site" was how he put it. The man's response? "Oh, La Di Da Di Bloody Da!"



Reading from his novel of that title and its sequel Trannies and Tiaras, Mr Anderson hilariously captured the weird and wonderful world of his heroines the trannies Miranda Maracona and Kookie Kombuis and their adventures in running a "love date agency" ("We are transvestites with taste," Miranda had announced firmly. "Not transvestites of tackiness!"), and latterly as protagonists investigating diamond smuggling and cocaine dealing... Wonderfully camp stuff! Visit his website for more.



Next up was the extremely enthusiastic "performance poet" Jason Charles (also a playwright of note) aka Jake Royston (his on-stage persona). Performance poetry is a bit of a "Marmite" art-form, and we did admittedly struggle a little, especially with the "sung" poems. However, I must admit to being charmed by some of his twisted wordplay. Watch his recent performance at the RVT.

However, if it is performance you want, then there is nothing - and I mean nothing! - in the literary world quite like the effervescent Rebecca Chance!



We had met the lovely lady before of course, at Polari back in February. On this occasion she chose to wear a rather fetching blue wig from her collection, together with a pair of gorgeous fuck-me shoes ("from Peacocks 'stripper range', daaahling!") and roped in our hapless host Mr Burston to be her stooge for a particularly salacious extract from her newest novel, Bad Sisters, involving an MP's ambitious wife and the inappropriately-titled Chief Whip (who gets the good spanking he himself craves!).



It was truly hilarious - and Mr B got so carried away with the method acting that his trousers just fell off..!

Here's Miss Chance talking about her previous bonk-buster Bad Girls:


You can also read an extract from Bad Sisters on her website.



Recovering his composure (and his clothes), Paul closed the first half's jollities, and Miss Chance joined us at our table for a while.



After the break it was the turn of the more scholarly of literary types starting with the lovely John McCullough, Brighton-born lecturer (with an MA in Sexual Dissidence!), queer archivist and a very clever poet indeed. He read poems on such diverse subjects as reading Frank O'Hara, and Tintin's relationship with Cap'n Haddock - and was quite mesmerising...



...as was his friend and fellow academic Ms Sophie Mayer, who read from (among other things) her book The Private Parts of Girls (as she said, "Don't Google this title!"), an extract from which is on her website. Beautifully-written and moving stuff.



Finally, it was the turn of our headline "act" - the Man Booker Prize-nominated novelist, critic and journalist Philip Hensher. He read two wonderful extracts from his new novel King of the Badgers, a lengthy chronicle of the bizarre lives of the inhabitants of a small North Devon coastal town, including closet queens, orgying Bears and mixed-up straights, all living in splendid isolation until a horrifying child abduction occurs in their midsts. Mr Hensher himself said: "I kept saying to people as I was writing it, ‘It’s a gay Cranford’. My publisher actually wanted me to call it ‘The Gay Cranford’."

The piece featuring a slightly deranged and lonely teenage girl who re-enacts entire trial-by-jury stories with dolls and "My Little Ponies" was particularly imbued with black humour - Mr Hensher is a fantastic writer, indeed!

Here is Mr Hensher talking to Mariella Fostrup about his new novel.



And so, reluctantly, we staggered to the close of another brilliant peerless gay literary salon. It only remained to do a bit of schmoozing with the familiar faces such as Alex Hopkins, Joe Storey-Smith, Helen Sandler, DJ Connell, VG Lee, Helen Smith and of course the luscious Frasier from Foyles before heading off across the bridge into the (by now very rainy) West End.

Another fab night, and there are a few more events announced in the "Polari pantheon" already:
First up is the "pop-up Polari" event at Lo Profile in Soho tomorrow (Wednesday Oct 26), where "Polari First Book Prize" shortlisted author James Maker will read from Autofellatio. Also on the bill are Angela Clerkin, Alex Hopkins and Karen Mcleod, who’ll all be reading from Men & Women.

On Thursday Oct 27, over in East London the LXV bookshop is hosting "A Queer Quintet", with all five shortlisted authors - Clare Campbell, DJ Connell, Timothy Graves, Jonathan Kemp and James Maker.

On Wednesday Nov 16, Polari returns to Lo Profile with shortlisted authors DJ Connell, Timothy Graves and Jonathan Kemp, as well as debut novelist - and a possible contender for next year’s prize - North Morgan.

And finally, there’s the big "Polari First Book Prize" night itself, at the Southbank Centre on Nov 21. This event also marks Polari’s fourth birthday, and we’ll be joined by award-winning debut novelist SJ Watson, plus Karen Mcleod, Neil Alexander, Paula Varjack, Shaun Levin and singer Marcus Reeves.
I can't wait!

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