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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Lord Cucumber and The Boy Hairdresser by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell 
13th-Mar-2006 03:45 pm
Okay. Correct me if I'm wrong: Joe Orton was a famous British playwright who was eventually murdered by his longtime lover Kenneth Halliwell, who, after doing the deed, committed suicide himself. >_<

Orton, Joe and Kenneth Halliwell. Lord Cucumber and The Boy Hairdresser: Two Novels. 1999. London: Methuen, 2001.
-Lord Cucumber- (1954)
Summary: The orphan Helen Hagg is employed by the Lord Cucumber as his secretary and, in the process, falls in love with Richard, the Lord's son and heir. Richard's mother disapproves of the relationship and has Helen fired, but the two are reunited by chance on an educational cruise through Greece. After Helen is able to prove that she was not the thief who stole Lady Cucumber's garnets, she and Richard declare their engagement.
Comments: Clearly, this novel intends to satirize a certain genre of English literature preoccupied with the (melo)dramas of the rich and noble...though, in all honesty, save for the ridiculous names of all the characters in the novel (there is a "Mr. Emission of Semen" mentioned, for instance), it doesn't seem ridiculous enough. The story is, surprise surprise, chock-full of coded homosexuality; Mrs. Mitylene is obviously a lesbian, as are Mrs. St Cuckoo and Olive de Pineapple, who have a falling out. Even Helen herself becomes infatuated with Richard's fiancée Thomyris and was educated at "St. Sappho." And, naturally, it all occurs within a milieu of Classical study. Anyway, this novel is an attempt to queer the canon that is perhaps less impressive half a century later due to increased societal permissiveness. Nowadays, if this story were to be written, Richard would probably run off with the butler. (^^;
-The Boy Hairdresser- (1960)
Summary: Peterson is getting in over his head, seducing underaged girls and planning to blackmail his employer Hart. After Peterson is run down and killed by one of Hart's hitmen, his long-term boyfriend Donelly, who has long been feeling anxious and tormented about the possibility of losing Peterson, goes crazy and opens fire on two women in public. The gun misfires, though, and blows up in his hand.
Comments: The style of this novel is thoroughly modern and a total reversal from the antiqued feel of Lord Cucumber. The language and imagery in places is remarkably beautiful and far more mature. Yet, long stretches of dialogue make the conversation a bit hard to follow, and what's actually going on in the psyches of the characters remains deliberately obscure. Some have noted that there are certain parallels here to the actual life histories of Orton and Halliwell, and, while that might not be totally coincidental, this novel seems more to me like a straightforward project to combine the misanthropic male character type with the homosexual character type. (And if that's how the authors saw themselves, all the better.) No flamboyant Oscar Wildes here; just two emotionally-blocked, destitute guys who would emphatically NOT take well to being called "fairies" or some other stereotype. Ultimately disappointing, however, in the suggestion that their love demanded a level of rebellion that Peterson, at least, was unable to meet--when it seemed to me that real stability in their cases would have meant being more openly loving and dependent with each other. Ah well.
Notes: trade paperback, 1st printing
Rating: 4.5, 5.5/10 - More historical than literary value. Joe Orton is known primarily for his plays and...colorful life history.
14th-Mar-2006 04:16 am (UTC)
mr. orton's life was a good deal more interesting than his literary output, frankly. although i DO think they ought to put up a blue plaque outide the men's lavatory at victoria station saying "joe orton cruised here"....that would make me feel better, somehow.
14th-Mar-2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
Heh. I'd never read these things at all if the didn't show up on the remainder pile. So, it's interesting...

although i DO think they ought to put up a blue plaque outide the men's lavatory at victoria station saying "joe orton cruised here"....that would make me feel better, somehow.

*dies laughing* Maybe in another 100 years or so. Give his legend time to ripen.
1st-Apr-2006 01:27 pm (UTC)
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