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Queer Up North and the Lit Festival get it on

Nicola Mostyn previews the arrival of well-known American writer Edmund White

Published on May 8th 2007.

Queer Up North and the Lit Festival get it on

Preparations for this year’s Manchester Literature Festival (Oct 4-14) are currently underway and we are keen to see in which direction the Festival develops with new Director Cathy Bolton (formerly of Commonword) at the helm.

But if you can’t wait that long for some damn good literature then you’re in luck. This year MLF is running a series of ‘Trailblazer’ events in the lead up to the festival, kicking off rather impressively with this special appearance by one of America’s foremost writers, Edmund White.

Presented by the MLF in association with queerupnorth, this is a rare chance to catch an audience with this witty, elegant chronicler of gay life. Confidential will have a full interview with Edmund White in the Gay section of this site next week. The Cincinnati born author began his writing career after moving to New York and forming a club known as the Violet Quill, where he and six other writers would critique each other’s work.

In this environment, White began to flourish as a writer, penning two novels in the 1970s, (Forgetting Elena and Nocturnes for the King of Naples) before writing his most famous work, his 1982 loosely autobiographical A Boy’s Own Story, in which he explores the coming of age of a young gay man in 1950s America.

White followed this with three more autobiographical novels, The Beautiful Room is Empty, The Farewell Symphony and The Married Man, exploring with candour and humour such aspects of gay life as sexual obsession, gay liberation and outliving one’s friends, the latter reflecting White’s own experience when he returned to New York in 1990 after seven years in Paris in to find that four members of the Violet Quill had died of Aids.

As well as reading from and talking about his existing works, White will also be offering the audience a sneak preview of his new work, Chaos: A Novella and Stories, in which an older man clings to the values and mores of the 1970s. White also has a new novel, Hotel de Dream, due out in July.

For more information on MLF trailblazer events, check out the MLF blog (http://mlfblog.blogspot.com) which promises to update with festival developments whilst the official website is under construction. Until then, this event should whet your appetite nicely.

Edmund White, Essential (Minshull Street/Bloom Street, the Village. Tickets from www.quaytickets.com 0870 428 0785) £9. 8pm.Tue 15 May.

Everybody likes a damned good book….

We’re all for a bit of romance but passion in the library? Surely not. Actually, the ardour is strictly between the book covers in a new initiative by Manchester Libraries to encourage readers to sample recent romantic writing.

While Mills and Boon is still going strong (seems you can just keep on working that true-hate-for-handsome-hulk turns-to-true-swoonsome-love plot), the Time To Read initiative is keen to point out that the term ‘Romance’ might also cover such varied writers as Neil Gaiman, Liz Fielding, Kate Harrison and Annie Proulx.

Find out more and suggest your own titles online at www.time-to-read.co.uk or pop in the library where Pure Passion postcards are available for members to fill in with their suggestions. I’ve always thought Philip Larkin was pretty romantic: “Choice of you shuts up that peacock-fan/The future was…”

Hmm, yes. I’ll have to pop in.

Manchester books

An occasional look at books written by Mancs or featuring the city

Here at ManCon Towers we’ve greatly enjoyed Gwendoline Riley’s new novel Joshua Spassky (Jonathan Cape, £11.99, published May 10). In this third book by the Manchester writer, Riley treads familiar territory with another young female protagonist but this time her character, Natalie, departs the Manchester streets for North Carolina where she meets up with ex-fling, playwright Joshua Spassky, to see if this neutral territory can make sense of what is, or isn’t, between them.

Riley’s books are slight but intense, with every word weighed, so that following Natalie from Deansgate station to a cheap Motel in Asheville is less concerned with plot and more an exercise in poetics. The writing is, to borrow Natalie’s phrase ‘a festival of self-consciousness,’ at times wryly funny, attuned to the smallest details of life, but always one step removed, even (or especially) when dealing with relationships. The style and the plot almost intertwine here as the book seems to ask what that sense of detachment, so suited to writing, may mean for two people who could be in love.

Joshua Spassky by Gwendoline Riley (Jonathan Cape, £11.99, published May 10).

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