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Saint Agnes’s Lament

Christian Lorentzen: ‘Shuggie Bain’, 3 December 2020

Shuggie Bain 
by Douglas Stuart.
Picador, 448 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 5290 1927 8
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... The jacket copy invites comparisons to Édouard Louis, Frank McCourt and Hanya Yanagihara. (Alan Hollinghurst is also present, but the implied comparison seems to be stylistic rather than thematic.) Edward St Aubyn and Karl Ove Knausgaard, with their bad dads, would also have been apt. The critic Sam Sacks has called such books ‘agony ...
... Chatterley for a reference for a gamekeeper. The magazine sort of launched me on a career, because Alan Pryce-Jones, who was then the editor of the TLS, gave me a lot of reviewing work. AH: How did you see your future then? FW: I suppose I feebly wanted to be a writer, but, apart from those stories, I couldn’t think what on earth I was going to do. I got my ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Handwriting, 8 November 2012

... anything interesting to say about handwriting. ‘You can know someone for years these days,’ Alan Hollinghurst observes, ‘and have no idea what their handwriting is like.’ That might be just as well. A poor or crabbed hand is unlikely to lead to a celebrity divorce in 2012, but it can still set our teeth on edge like bad table manners. Hensher ...

Tied to the Mast

Adam Mars-Jones: Alan Hollinghurst, 19 October 2017

The Sparsholt Affair 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Picador, 454 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 1 4472 0821 1
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... Alan Hollinghurst​ ’s tally as a published novelist is six books over 29 years, so that’s more than two thousand pages of astonishing responsiveness to light, sound, painting, the past, social nuance, music, sensation both sexual and otherwise, buildings inside and out, the inner life of sentences – this is only the beginning of a list ...

On David King

Susannah Clapp, 21 June 2018

... One was of the writer Francis Wyndham, then in his sixties, in conversation with a 34-year-old Alan Hollinghurst. It was an extraordinary portrait, the two absolutely at ease but sitting at an angle to each other and looking quizzical. Hollinghurst, clean-shaven and gentle. Wyndham, melancholy and ...

Short is sharp

John Sutherland, 3 February 1983

Firebird 2 
edited by T.J. Binding.
Penguin, 284 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 006337 4
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Bech is Back 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 195 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 0 233 97512 8
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The Pangs of Love 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 156 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 241 10942 6
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The Man Who Sold Prayers 
by Margaret Creal.
Dent, 198 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 9780460045926
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Happy as a Dead Cat 
by Jill Miller.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, January 1983, 9780704338982
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... than prizes. The best things are from the youngest contributors, such as James Campbell and Alan Hollinghurst, and the less youthful A.E. Ellis. Each here performs the same narrative trick, telling some resonant or portentous tale through more or less awkward or impercipient or blindly obsessive observers. In ...

From Soup to Fish

Andrew O’Hagan: The Spender Marriage, 17 December 2015

A House in St John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents 
by Matthew Spender.
William Collins, 448 pp., £25, August 2015, 978 0 00 813206 4
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... you don’t really want it, but Spender protested too much. In 1994 he wrote a letter to the young Alan Hollinghurst after receiving a copy of his second novel, The Folding Star. The letter shows a man in a state of confusion or unhappiness about the choices he has made. Dear Mr Hollinghurst Thank you very much for ...
... a few more gay male writers – Paul Monette, David Leavitt and Armistead Maupin in the US, Alan Hollinghurst, Paul Bailey, Adam Mars-Jones in Britain – enjoy this crossover status. International comparisons, however, can be misleading, since they disguise the very different ways in which each country is culturally organised and politically ...

Bitch Nation

Musab Younis: ‘Sex, France and Arab Men’, 7 February 2019

Sex, France and Arab Men 
by Todd Shepard.
Chicago, 317 pp., £37.50, February 2019, 978 0 226 49327 5
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... preoccupied by the spectral figure of the enabling black or brown sexual partner: take the work of Alan Hollinghurst, for example. In France, sexual fascination with Arabs and Muslims, men in particular, still has a place in the national psyche, a point recently made by Mehammed Mack in Sexagon: Muslims, France and the Sexualisation of National ...

Life on the Town

Michael Wood, 22 May 1997

The Farewell Symphony 
by Edmund White.
Chatto, 504 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 3621 9
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... the only, or even the most responsible, modes for dealing with sexuality and disease, and neither Alan Hollinghurst nor Edmund White is simply writing ‘sexy nostalgic fiction’. They are writing about a reckless release from a host of taboos, about a quest for pleasure that could often seem manic, and that was always dangerous – the danger was part ...

Peroxide and Paracetamol

Adam Mars-Jones: Alison MacLeod, 12 September 2013

by Alison MacLeod.
Hamish Hamilton, 340 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 0 241 14263 9
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... It’s not easy to put aside our knowledge and inhabit their innocence. In The Stranger’s Child Alan Hollinghurst went to some trouble to shake the patronising certainty of retrospect, setting the first part of his novel before the First World War, the second part in the 1920s. Readers had to piece together what had happened in the interval, a lesser ...

Catch 28

John Lanchester, 3 March 1988

The Swimming-Pool Library 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Chatto, 288 pp., £11.95, February 1988, 0 7011 3282 5
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The Beautiful Room is Empty 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 184 pp., £9.95, January 1988, 0 330 30394 5
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... when the fictional treatment of same-sex love had to be implicit, indirect, deflected, latent. Hollinghurst’s unpublished M. Litt thesis, which I stumbled across as a graduate student, made a forceful case for this idea as applied to the work of Firbank, Hartley and Forster. His novel takes up the idea in asides: ‘It’s the whole gay thing, isn’t ...

We offered them their chance

Michael Wood: Henry James and the Great War, 2 June 2005

The Ivory Tower 
by Henry James.
NYRB, 266 pp., £8.99, July 2004, 1 59017 078 4
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... he could no longer work upon a fiction supposed to represent contemporary or recent life’. Alan Hollinghurst, in his acute introduction to this new edition, says the same thing. James thought he could, however, take up – these are Lubbock’s words again – ‘a story of remote and phantasmal life’. This was The Sense of the Past, James’s ...

Four Thousand, Tops

Michael Wood: Headlong by Michael Frayn, 14 October 1999

by Michael Frayn.
Faber, 395 pp., £16.99, August 1999, 0 571 20051 6
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... if he did. Headlong is a novel which, like recent books by Julian Barnes (England, England) and Alan Hollinghurst (The Spell), treats rural England as if it was a domestic Transylvania, a place where normality can’t survive one uneasy night or apparently innocuous dinner party. Some of Frayn’s funniest writing here concerns not the country but what ...


Christopher Tayler: Nicholson Baker, 3 November 2011

House of Holes 
by Nicholson Baker.
Simon and Schuster, 262 pp., £14.99, August 2011, 978 0 85720 659 6
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... None, really, nor does the focus on sex lead him – as he writes in U&I of Edmund White and Alan Hollinghurst – towards ‘subtler revelations in the novel’s traditional arena of social behaviour’. ‘People masturbate a lot in paradise’ is the main revelation on offer, though perhaps the wisest words in the book are addressed to the ...

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