Thursday, 15 October 2015

Marlon James Award: Best Man


The discovery that John-John K was the originating voice casts the novel’s trajectory in fresh light. A gay hitman from Chicago, John-John K performs two crucial jobs, one of which is to help Weeper, a gay gangster who has moved to the US from Jamaica, to affirm a kind of peace with his sexuality. (James laughs when he says that this fourth part was the only one he vetoed his mother from reading.) When James started writing A Brief History, with John-John K as the main character, did he mean to write a “gay” novel?

“If I’m going to go by how the book really started, yes,” he says. “It was a gay hitman going through boyfriend troubles, trying to kill someone. When the overall architecture showed up, it made sense to me. All of those tricky sexualities, the things we do to get accepted, and the things we do that make us acceptable, I really wanted to talk about that.” He says A Brief History is “a novel of exile”. (He once described himself as “post-postcolonial” but now rejects that label because “it implies that whatever you’re doing, it’s the still-dominant context”.)

Weeper’s meanness eases as he learns to accept himself. “From the get-go he was a gay character. And not just a gay character,” James says. “When people talk about homosexuality, the perception of homosexuality itself is one thing, but then there’s the perception of the role you play. Are you the top, the bottom? Are you submissive? There’s always someone who’s doing it and a person who it’s being done to. I deliberately played with that.” ...


Interesting to see how Marlon's sexuality is being acknowledged as central to his story - usually concentrating on his flight from Jamaica - and to A Brief History Of Seven Killings.

PS Why Marlon James had to get out of Jamaica to win the Booker prize. A Brief History of Seven Killings breaks some very strong taboos – and its writer says he feared becoming a victim of homophobic rage, Guardian Cif.

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