Essential Summer Reading List
We say "essential", but essentially it is one person's opinion. And that person is the one and only Jack Cullen.
Of course this summer is all about the obligatory non-fiction reads, How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, How To Leave Twitter by Grace Dent, How To Pay Off Your Mortgage In Highgate by Insert Sarcastic Female. Still, once you’ve finished your homework, here are some proper novels to get some sand into. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something from Prowler:
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THE WRONG PEOPLE by Robin Maugham
Must gay men be doomed to either infidelity or boredom? A scandalous and hard-edged sexual thriller set in post-war Morocco that was first published under a pseudonym in 1967 due to its racy content. The story follows Arnold a repressed gay teacher in a reform school who falls in love with a fourteen-year-old boy on holiday in Tangier. Arnold falls into a world of alcoholic millionaire ex-pats, estranged women who’ve left their British husbands to pursue young black companions, and a web of blackmail begins to thread itself around Arnold’s forbidden desires.
THE GOOD DOCTOR by Damon Galgut
Frank Eloff, a recent medical graduate with big ideas, is sent to a remote region of South Africa where he must help out in a struggling and low-staffed hospital. Living with other young doctors whose personalities clash, Eloff ventures deeper into his rural surroundings where he encounters some of the extraordinary locals. One night he staggers across a former presidential mansion in the jungle and is surprised to discover an overthrown dictator in hiding – “Who else will cut the grass?” he says. A beautifully written and powerfully understated thriller set against the dazzling heat of a South African backdrop.
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THE STRANGER’S CHILD by Alan Hollinghurst
An attentive and masterful novelist, Hollinghurst has a rare gift for telling (perfectly paced) stories that wrap slowly around the reader’s heart before totally enveloping their every emotion, indeed Hollinghurst is the gay community’s literary trump card, Ishiguro in heels, Brideshead with proper bumming. The Stranger’s Child is no exception. See Theo Tait’s review in the Guardian here. I was sold at “Cecil Valance, a mediocre Georgian poet, repeatedly ravishes the love-struck younger son of the house”
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MADE IN BRITAIN by Gavin James Bower
Former male model Gavin James Bower caused a stir with his first book ‘Dazed And Aroused’, a novel that exposed the world of London fashion magazine internships. Still, he’s persevered and Made In Britain, his second novel, will hit the shelves in September. Set in the north of England the story follows a trio of lonely teenagers all trying to make something of their lives whilst avoiding drugs, violence and the damp of parental influence. Gritty, and in parts witty, the characters are strangely moreish. It’s worth reading if only for the laboriously deprived gay sex scene.
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Nothing beats waking up in a guest bedroom and dipping into the book on the bedside cabinet, trying to ignore the sound of your host’s rocking bedposts in the next room. Here are two great reads I’ve borrowed for the summer:
A NEW LIFE by Wendy Moffat
Despite living to the age of ninety E.M.Forster stopped publishing novels at the age of forty-five. His masterpiece of homosexual fiction Maurice was released post-humously. In this fascinating biography Wendy Moffat explores Forster’s ideas of individuality, freedom, tolerance and love, establishing a sense of how he helped to build the world we live in today, not necessarily through self-publicising his own work, but through influencing the creations of his close friends such as novelist Christoper Isherwood and the composer Benjamin Britten.
SWIMMER by Bill Broady
A young girl takes to swimming as an escape from her family troubles and problematic school life, and through dedication and obsession becomes an Olympic swimmer. But when she turns 19 her coach throws her into a world of publicity, sexual sleaze, paranoia and abuse. Written astonishingly in the second person, Bill Broady’s novelette reads like an extended poem, or possibly, a journey through water. With the London Olympics around the corner and ‘celebrity’ swimmers frequently making splashes in the news, Bill Broady’s debut from 2001 is more powerful and relevant than ever.
BEST OF GAY EROTICA 3 by Various Authors (like Band Aid, but not)
This popular series of gay short stories has been going since 1996. It mostly involves uncanny coincidences, dinner parties with not enough beds to go round, gardeners who feel compelled to undergo their basic hygiene routine under the rose bed sprinklers, cocky sixth formers who forget their P.E. kit so have to settle for a thong made out of Mr. Helmet’s handkerchiefs, and generally speaking fountains of ejaculation scattered randomly across every other paragraph. Still, it’s a good one to get out on the plane so, you know, the hot guy across the way knows you’re on the team.
Let Jack know what you thought of these books on Twitter @jackcullenuk.