I’d never heard of Goytisolo or his memoir of growing up gay in Franco’s Spain (Forbidden Territory, trans. Bush, 1989). But if it’s good enough for Colm Tóibín, it’s good enough for me. “What I loved when I first read this book,” writes Tóibín in the Guardian, “was its hushed tone, as though you alone were being told hard secrets and complex truths by a man whose gaze was fully sexual, and also sad and wise.”
It’s a shame Evelyn Waugh didn’t write more about the nitty-gritty of gay life. He certainly had the material. He destroyed some of the diaries covering his gay phase, but kept others. In December 1925 Waugh and a friend visited a gay brothel in Paris, a café on the Rue des Ourses. Waugh, who was then 22, chatted to a 19-year-old dressed as an Egyptian woman, his friend to a “peasant boy.” Waugh thought his new companion attractive and even arranged a tableau whereby the young man might be “enjoyed by a large negro,” but balked at the price and left without having consummated the acquaintance. “I think I do not regret it,” he wrote in his diary.
Over the past couple of years, Ian Young has been responsible for some of the best gay writing in Canada, penning fascinating portraits of explorer Norm Elder and renegade novelist Scott Symons. First published in Canadian Notes & Queries, both profiles are now available in book form, along with a third, of activist Robin Hardy, and they’re a terrific addition to that very small shelf known as gay Canadian biography. A book launch scheduled for this summer never materialized but the book itself, Encounters with Authors, is still available through the usual sources. Best known for his early gay activism, Young also assembled the astonishing collection of gay pulps now at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at U of T.