Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Line of Beauty

I am happy that Alan Hollinghurst won the Booker Prize. Congratulations, Mr. Hollinghurst.

But oh my gods and goddesses: why do we need, at every turn, to call The Line of Beauty a "gay novel"?

OK, OK, I will acknowledge that as I am preparing to lead a workshop about bisexuality and transgender issues for the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship's series of meetings about whether or not to become a Welcoming Congregation (i.e., officially recognized by the national UU organization as a place that welcomes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people), I have found several lists of "Gay and Lesbian" movies useful, in jogging my brain and bringing to my attention movies I did not know about.

And it is worth noting that a novel treating gay subject matter has not previously won a Booker. I like to acknowledge milestones and broken glass ceilings.

But calling The Line of Beauty a "gay novel" so limits it.

I must admit that I have not read this novel, so what I am about to say is based exclusively on other Booker-Prize-winning novels I have read--quite a number of them, thank you. (And I plan to add this one to that list as soon as I can get a copy.) If this book was chosen for the Booker, then it has lots and lots of important, memorable, impressive aspects, and we do the novel and Mr. Hollinghurst a disservice in ghettoizing the book.

The good news is that The Line of Beauty will gain more readers than it would have without this prize--including me. I am not proud not to have read it or known of it, but so it has been. The other good news is that people who might otherwise pick up a "gay novel" will do so, thanks to the recognition that this book has received. But please let us respect Mr. Hollinghurst's work as something that goes beyond plot lines.

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