Friday, 16 September 2011

Hensher Vs Worsthorne: Head To Head

The Spectator attempts to calm - or further inflame - the heated debate between Philip Hensher and Peregrine Worsthorne about the role of bumsexery in the modern novel by getting them to argue the toss.

"Peregrine Worsthorne raised a storm by objecting to a gay orgy in a novel by Philip Hensher. Here, both authors argue their case

"Sir Peregrine Worsthorne... read my novel, and in The Spectator Diary quoted one of the orgy scene’s frankest sentences. He asked, rhetorically, whether a novelist who describes a gay sexual encounter in specific terms risks reawakening homophobic prejudice in his readers. If an innocent homosexual is beaten to death in Trafalgar Square this weekend, I suppose that Sir Peregrine thinks that I bear some responsibility for that, by alerting readers to what some gay men might do, consensually and in private. But should one, as a novelist, tailor one’s invention to the requirements of people who obviously find gay people disgusting and repulsive on every level? Would any depiction of gay characters satisfy such a reader?
...A good novelist will always try to bring specificity to every other part of human behaviour — how a character talks, eats a pizza, grooms himself, walks, dresses, even smells. He now has the freedom to describe him in the bedroom, or in this case, being buggered on a dining-room table. A bad writer will write unevocatively, banally about all these things, bringing his observations from a bank of stock gestures. If a good one does not choose to pass over these subjects altogether, he will write about them with freshness and observation. My personal rules in writing about this subject were two. I would not be euphemistic to spare a reader; and I would not idealise. There is far too much idealising writing about sex, and hardly any accurate observation..."

Philip Hensher.

Then - as if by magic - Mr Worst Horne proceeds to go brilliantly, filthily mad...

"...It is the raw physical sex thing that does it. No straights in their right mind object to same-sex passionate friendships, so long as the physical side is kept private. The Victorians were adept at that. Tennyson’s most intensely emotional poem is about his love for another man. The saintly John Henry Newman adored Hurrell Froude and was himself adored by Ambrose St John. But it was a highly personal romantic love; very much ‘a dressed up’ love. Oscar Wilde would never have got into trouble if he had limited his homosexual life to fellow aesthetes, instead of being tempted to go in for the rough trade. In my youth at school and university (Socrates and Alcibiades) and in the army I too had passionate friendships with other men. We wrote letters and poems to each other, kissed and embraced to the point of orgasm — at Stowe notoriously on a sofa with George Melly — and all went swimmingly until one day in Holland in the war a fellow officer, who tragically went on to have his balls shot off, on a camp bed broke the romantic rule by trying to put his flagstaff-size penis up my bum..."

Thank buggery he didn't get too explicit, eh lads?

Read in full. Please, please do.

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