Alan Hollinghurst C/D S&D

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Probably one of the only contemporary writers whose work I've read all of. I went off him a bit as a result of "The Strangers Child" which The New statesman accurately described as "a broken-backed and anti-dramatic novel.... [which ]turns out to be a parody of a novel by Alan Hollinghurst." It really is not good. But not only that, it's "not good" in a way that makes me wonder if he'll ever make something good again, considering the fact that this New Statesman review was one of the (very few) even slightly negative reviews of the book. It seems like a very complacent book.

...but then I'm re-reading The Line of Booty and it's amazing, still. and funny!

so, The Strangers Child is easily his worst book. The Line of Beauty is probably his best.

My favourite, however, is The Spell, which seems wise and easy and unashamed. And that book is, or was, thought to be his worst, so what do I know?

jed_, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 01:56 (six years ago) Permalink

The Stranger's Child boasts a strong introduction but then dissolves into tonal and point of view experiments that diffuse its intensity. A wrong step but not a cripping one -- the sort committed by an ambitious novelist well into his forties.

The Line of Beauty is amazing, and so is The Folding Star, which has one of the hottest sex scenes I've ever read (and I'm no fan).

The Spell is the only blah one, alas.

a regina spektor is haunting europe (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 15 August 2012 02:00 (six years ago) Permalink

The amazing thing about TLoB is that you read 40 pages and you're right in there: The world is so vivid; the characters fleshed out so instantly, fully armed. It really is quite a performance.

jed_, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 02:01 (six years ago) Permalink

Man, Alfred, no! The Spell is terrific. Not perfect but better than that.

jed_, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 02:02 (six years ago) Permalink

I'll give it another try. It's brief.

a regina spektor is haunting europe (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 15 August 2012 02:05 (six years ago) Permalink

The Folding Star does something amazing in that it makes you as bizarre and deluded as the narrator so that the (relatively minor) sexual revelation at the end of the book is numbing... and then funny (because it's completely obvious). Again, quite a performance! Technically brilliant.

jed_, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 02:13 (six years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

Just finished The Line Of Beauty. Hollinghurst gets the "Heavy Lifting" award, prose-wise.

45 DOWN: "NYPD Blue" actor ____ Morales (R Baez), Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:26 (six years ago) Permalink

OH AND: Hollinghurst-wise, what next?

45 DOWN: "NYPD Blue" actor ____ Morales (R Baez), Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:26 (six years ago) Permalink

Oh, I see a few posts up that Alfred pretty much answers my question.

45 DOWN: "NYPD Blue" actor ____ Morales (R Baez), Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:28 (six years ago) Permalink

no he doesn't! read The Spell.

jed_, Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:33 (six years ago) Permalink

Probably gonna!

45 DOWN: "NYPD Blue" actor ____ Morales (R Baez), Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:36 (six years ago) Permalink

cool ;)

what did you mean by "heavy lifting"?

jed_, Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:37 (six years ago) Permalink

Taking nothing for granted, basically. Making sure he doesn't slack off at any moment.

I like to think I've written two or three decent bits of nuanced description and I've stressed out for hours making sure they work properly. Seeing Hollinghurst do it page by page makes me envious, natch.

45 DOWN: "NYPD Blue" actor ____ Morales (R Baez), Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:40 (six years ago) Permalink

ah i see, yes he does it so effortlessly. there's a nicholson baker essay (really just a review of the folding star) where NB boggles at hollinghurst's descriptive powers.

jed_, Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:55 (six years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

The Stranger's Child - about 250 pages in. I suspect I like it a bit more than the commenters above, though I'll admit the first 50 or so pages were, if not quite a chore, a bit of self-conscious effort. It's neat watching the early reverie dissolve into a great deal of faintly bitter aftertaste as the years progress. Hollinghurst writes really good parties, nailing both the awkwardness and exhiliration at once.

"Rob is startled, this is straight up gangster" (R Baez), Friday, 22 February 2013 01:13 (five years ago) Permalink

I wanted more parties and sex!

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 22 February 2013 01:13 (five years ago) Permalink

Ha - I've noticed how all the sex occurs in the gaps between passages. Both TLOB and this book seem to be exercises in slight disorientation, re: gaps of time, what happened and why.

"Rob is startled, this is straight up gangster" (R Baez), Friday, 22 February 2013 01:17 (five years ago) Permalink

Of course, the subtle time displacement could be a thing, both books being the only Hollinghurst works I've read.

"Rob is startled, this is straight up gangster" (R Baez), Friday, 22 February 2013 01:32 (five years ago) Permalink

omg the line of beauty is so sexy. the first shag in the private garden. whenever i go to hampstead heath in summer i feel like i am in this book.

plax (ico), Friday, 22 February 2013 02:31 (five years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

Is The Sparsholt Affair any good? I mean, I read The Stranger's Child and I have my suspicions that TSA may be as misguided. But I've also read The Line of Beauty and The Spell and I consider both to be immaculate and The Line of beauty to be the most piercing, wise and shameless novel I've read from recent times but The Strangers Child seemed to me so wayward and misconceived that I honestly thought he'd lost the ability to plot. I want to read an excellent Hollinghurst novel but I'm not sure he's capable of writing one anymore. I'd love to be proved wrong.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 1 February 2018 01:53 (ten months ago) Permalink

The line of Beauty is truly amazing though. You ARE Nick Guest. When it gets to the denouement where Gerald confronts Nick, asking him "how did you come to be in this house?" It's like the rug has been pulled out from under of the reader rather than the character. It's incredible! So shocking!

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 1 February 2018 02:07 (ten months ago) Permalink

it's like it's so fun and sexy that Hollinghurst has actually made you into this tory sex obsessed cunt while you're actually reading it. Edith Wharton does this too - Makes you root for an absolutely terrible self-serving character.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 1 February 2018 02:20 (ten months ago) Permalink

LRB was unimpressed by the plotting, 'Johnny Sparsholt is the book’s central character, but only because no one else qualifies; he seems oddly peripheral.'

lana del boy (ledge), Thursday, 1 February 2018 13:53 (ten months ago) Permalink

When it gets to the denouement where Gerald confronts Nick, asking him "how did you come to be in this house?"

I was drawing breaths when this happened.

otm re The Stranger's Child

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 1 February 2018 13:56 (ten months ago) Permalink

lege, thanks. I'd like to read that.If at any time you can paste it or put it on pastebin or similar i'd appreciate it.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Saturday, 3 February 2018 00:38 (ten months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Al, Have you read the Partick Melrose novels? I've read two so far. Lovely and often v funny prose.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 15 March 2018 01:23 (nine months ago) Permalink

thanks for that link, also.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 15 March 2018 01:23 (nine months ago) Permalink

sorry i didn't see your post up there jed, here you go:
https://pastebin.com/nijMkcR1

lana del boy (ledge), Thursday, 15 March 2018 07:36 (nine months ago) Permalink

thanks ledge!

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 15 March 2018 22:43 (nine months ago) Permalink

Should try him again. The Line of Beauty was an amazing book, but after that I read The Swimming pool Library, and if ever a book was hobbled by the author being completely infatuated with their main character it was that one.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 16 March 2018 05:43 (eight months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

it's like it's so fun and sexy that Hollinghurst has actually made you into this tory sex obsessed cunt while you're actually reading it. Edith Wharton does this too - Makes you root for an absolutely terrible self-serving character.

― Heavy Messages (jed_), Wednesday, January 31, 2018 7:20 PM (three months ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

just following up on this thought, but: i'm about 100 pages into the line of beauty and it takes a remarkably sure hand to have the main character of your book be a 19-year-old coward who's obsessed with glamor and the main patriarch be a huge conservative idiot and make me feel like i'm somehow both of them. he achieves this effect partly through empathy and partly through sparing no one, and yet the book never feels mean, just correct

i'm having a *great* time reading it

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 14 May 2018 18:57 (seven months ago) Permalink

the writing is so intoxicating

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 14 May 2018 18:58 (seven months ago) Permalink

holy shit I AM READING THIS BOOK TOO

brad we have a book club

imago, Monday, 14 May 2018 19:00 (seven months ago) Permalink

I'm about 80 pages in and really enjoying it. Enormous flashbacks to various privileged occasions I've been part of, albeit not in Nick's role. My schoolfriend's wedding last year is echoed so precisely in the party segment. Without being particularly experimental, Hollinghurst is a genius of observation and character - he is so sharp, he must have storyboarded each character really, really extensively - even the minor ones

imago, Monday, 14 May 2018 19:03 (seven months ago) Permalink

So few novels have given me the assurance that I will love it forever like TLOB did in 2004

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 14 May 2018 19:17 (seven months ago) Permalink

does this guy just hack everyone's mind or something, he has an uncanny brilliance for interiority

imago, Wednesday, 23 May 2018 19:40 (six months ago) Permalink

His last novel is another disappointment, though.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 23 May 2018 20:12 (six months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

man TLOB gets dark at the end

imago, Saturday, 7 July 2018 00:07 (five months ago) Permalink

i was ready for everything except isolation

imago, Saturday, 7 July 2018 00:07 (five months ago) Permalink

"what the fuck are you doing here?"

Britain's Sexiest Cow (jed_), Saturday, 7 July 2018 00:37 (five months ago) Permalink

that ending is so shocking!

Britain's Sexiest Cow (jed_), Saturday, 7 July 2018 00:38 (five months ago) Permalink

the rug pulled out from your feet in the most surprising way. a total 180.

Britain's Sexiest Cow (jed_), Saturday, 7 July 2018 00:44 (five months ago) Permalink

YEP

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 7 July 2018 03:22 (five months ago) Permalink

I've no doubt that that was the experience for so many conditionally-beloved young gay men in that era but the way he's systematically abandoned by everyone in those last thirty pages (over, essentially, spurious nonsense) is truly horrifying

imago, Saturday, 7 July 2018 07:10 (five months ago) Permalink

otoh as I finished reading the book yesterday I walked up to Kensington Park Gardens (past the ogee bandstand) and found it much as I'd hoped

imago, Saturday, 7 July 2018 07:11 (five months ago) Permalink

Gerald really is just the most boring monster in the end. Nick should have seen it coming. Maybe he did

imago, Saturday, 7 July 2018 07:12 (five months ago) Permalink

Reminds me of Henry James' endings (The Aspern Papers, The Beast in the Jungle, The American), the axe dropping down with a sickening thud. Except with James it's usually in the final page, and largely the protagonist's own doing. Here it lasts for 30 pages and is entirely undeserved.

lana del boy (ledge), Saturday, 7 July 2018 07:46 (five months ago) Permalink

I'd like to think his AIDS test was negative, and these are his memoirs of the early days

imago, Saturday, 7 July 2018 08:00 (five months ago) Permalink

Gerald really is just the most boring monster in the end.

The point of the ending imo is that you suddenly realise it's Nick that's the boring monster.

Britain's Sexiest Cow (jed_), Saturday, 7 July 2018 11:34 (five months ago) Permalink

oh of course he is just as prone to criticism as any of them really

imago, Saturday, 7 July 2018 14:50 (five months ago) Permalink

four weeks pass...

I'm 60 pages from the ending. I've finished this re-read while sitting on the beach or by the pool.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 4 August 2018 13:44 (four months ago) Permalink

of TLoB?

Britain's Sexiest Cow (jed_), Saturday, 4 August 2018 18:25 (four months ago) Permalink

Nick wasn’t a boring monster imo he was a hypocrite and a parasite, just as Gerald accused him— the AIDS test was (I felt) deliberately placed there as a maguffin, that the prospect of losing his life to AIDS was less painful that his social expulsion.

What I like about Hollinghurst is that he is able to capture both the beauty and sexiness of young white gay hedonism, but forces these same sexy protagonists to be held accountable for their actions and obliviousness

flamboyant goon tie included, Saturday, 4 August 2018 19:56 (four months ago) Permalink

the AIDS test was (I felt) deliberately placed there as a maguffin, that the prospect of losing his life to AIDS was less painful that his social expulsion.

Rereading the last two pages, I thought this is precisely what happened. Nick imagines himself slipping from the memories of the Feddens, and it's described as an absence from lived spaces, not a spiritual one.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 4 August 2018 21:45 (four months ago) Permalink

Yeah, exactly. It’s so interesting, when I first read the book twelve years ago, midway through I had my first and only AIDS nightmare (knocks wood)— it just seemed so clear that that was where the book was heading. To have the tragedy be something completely different, and come so abruptly, was so extremely intense

I just read the final sixty pages again now and feel so palpably Nick’s pretence of trying to stay cool and apologetic in the face of a family who wants him gone, and implicitly, don’t care if he lives or dies

And also that expression of unconditional love, ugh, it’s such a great book, dammit, I need to read his other novels

flamboyant goon tie included, Saturday, 4 August 2018 22:12 (four months ago) Permalink

Yeah, exactly. It’s so interesting, when I first read the book twelve years ago, midway through I had my first and only AIDS nightmare (knocks wood)— it just seemed so clear that that was where the book was heading. To have the tragedy be something completely different, and come so abruptly, was so extremely intense

I just read the final sixty pages again now and feel so palpably Nick’s pretence of trying to stay cool and apologetic in the face of a family who wants him gone, and implicitly, don’t care if he lives or dies

And also that expression of unconditional love, ugh, it’s such a great book, dammit, I need to read his other novels

flamboyant goon tie included, Saturday, 4 August 2018 22:12 (four months ago) Permalink

Anyone read the new one yet? As a fan of his best work I've swithering about it but it's long, I was underwhelmed by The Stranger's Child and reviews have been patchy (inc one or two likening it to TSC, not a good thing).

frankiemachine, Sunday, 12 August 2018 15:37 (four months ago) Permalink

Not impressed -- an etiolated thing.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 August 2018 15:40 (four months ago) Permalink

Shame. Before TSC was published he was just about my favourite current novelist. Massive anticipation for the next one. Would hardly have believed I could get from there to probably not bothering to read his next but one.

frankiemachine, Sunday, 12 August 2018 16:26 (four months ago) Permalink

I'm in the same position.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 August 2018 16:26 (four months ago) Permalink


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