Embarrassed by my writing Part One

These days my hero is Andrey Platonov. A few others of transcendent talent who suffered under the Soviet boot taught me humility about writing and the rest of life, and helped me gain perspective on my talent and efforts. (I just read A.O. Scott’s review of The Place Beyond the Pines, in which he mentions Bradley Cooper’s restless and resourceful talent. To be called restless and resourceful is the highest praise I’d ever aspire to.)
I’ve always been embarrassed by Aubade and Waiting for the Sky to Fall, but for different reasons and at different times.
Twenty-five years ago an agent who had the idea he could sell the movie rights to one of my novels (he couldn’t) told me I seemed to be embarrassed when he mentioned Aubade. I was. I was squirming, but now I can’t figure out why, at that particular time. I’d been embarrassed many years before, to the point where I even denied writing it, because in my twenties I was trying on a heterosexual identity and had internalized a lot of homophobia. It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. when I was 30 that I got caught up in the spirit of the times and fully came out. Except when for some reason it wasn’t convenient. As a journalist I trod an uneasy path between denial and making a point of choosing gay men to write about, their sexuality a given only worth mentioning in passing.
Yup, it’s complicated. A 16-year-old boy who wrote a book that gave comfort to many might have been a gay icon. If I’d been rich, or protected by a powerful family, or didn’t have to earn a “respectable” living. I was reckless, but not that reckless. I’d known that writing a gay novel was a huge risk in that climate where queers were still regarded as perverted things, but I also sensed the queerness was what would make the book get noticed and maybe published. At 16 I was desperate. I’d left school, I’d missed going back for an A-level year to get into university and there was no money to support me at university even if I got a full scholarship. There were no options. Everything depended on the book getting published. (I benefited from the law that may help a cowardly writer seem brave, the law of delayed consequences. You weren’t immediately held accountable for what you committed to paper. In the days of www. that law may no longer apply.)
And when I got the advance there was no question that I’d get on the boat to England. Let me tell you what I was escaping. A sister made a weak attempt to keep me at home. “If you stay you’d have everything you want,” she said. “Enough money for your own razor and your own radio.” MORE TO COME

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