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August 2011
Short Reviews of Books and Films
by Nick Thiwerspoon

The Gold Diggers
By Paul Monette

This was the first Paul Monette I read.  I found it on a trestle table of cheap books at a second-hand bookshop in Rondebosch in Cape Town, and was astounded. In those days, there was strict censorship in South Africa. A book sympathetic to gays; more, one which took gayness and the whole range of gay-shadedness for granted - this was indeed subversive.

It's a marvellous story; a very exciting thriller; a masterly novel exploring the way relationships change and develop; a couple of interleaved romances; an exploration of the difference and complementarity between love and lust; and a rattling good yarn as well.  It's also very funny in places, perhaps the sunniest of Monette's novels.  

Rita goes west to stay with her best friend Peter, a White Russian prince, whose husband Nick is sleeping with Sam on the side, but not because he loves Sam.  Well, not really.  Rita falls in love with Nick, as Peter expected. And Nick .... well, read it yourself and see.  Meanwhile, Sam is very much not what he seems, and he has a past.  As does their house, and their houseboy.

Clever, humane, insightful, moving, beautifully written, unputdownable - I cannot recommend it too highly.

This is the original cover, much worn from frequent rereadings, as you can see.  Stavrinos, the cover illustrator, produced some marvellous drawings of gay men before dying in 1990 of AIDS.  Paul Monette died of the disease in 1995.  So many heartbreaking losses.

The Aerodynamics of Pork
By Patrick Gale

It's unfair that Patrick Gale should have written such a polished, mature, superb, readable first novel, when he was also extraordinarily beautiful (if the jacket photo is to be believed), and only in his early twenties.

As Gale often does, he uses the device of two different story lines, which intersect only at the end. InThe Facts of Life, for example, it's almost as if there are two separate novels; in Rough Music, the threads are separated by time but there is an aha! moment at the end when you see how they link.  Alert readers will notice that Rough Music, set in Cornwall as The Aerodynamics of Pork also (partly) is, has two characters in common with Aerodynamics.

Seth is a child-prodigy violinist and as randy as any teenager, looking for as much sex with men as he can.  Instead he finds the love of his life.  Mo is a lesbian policewoman who is despised by her male colleagues and the police hierarchy.  Both story threads are entrancing and enchanting.  Gale cleverly weaves the two together via a series of violent attacks on newspaper astrologers which Mo is investigating.  

Most first novels have faults and infelicities.  This is one of those rarities:  it has none.  Read it, and if you are writer, envy the consummate ease and grace and compassion with which he manipulates his characters, dialogue and plot. If you are not, simply enjoy its richness and vigour and charm.  

I've attached the original cover (from my own copy) because I detest the new version.  

Nikolaos Thiwerspoon is the author of several romantic m2m and bisexual novels and short stories.  He lives in country Victoria, Australia.

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