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Hollinghurst, Alan (b. 1954)  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  

On the other, the novel traces Nick's loss of innocence as he comes gradually to understand that there is no place in the inner circles of power for a gay aesthete from the middle class, no matter how much he compromises himself in his sometimes desperate effort to fit in. As much a victim of his own self-delusions as of the cold hearted homophobia and class consciousness of the Feddens and their ilk, Nick is a Jamesian hero for the new millennium.

A film version, adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by Saul Dibb, was released in 2006.


Hollinghurst acknowledges the deliberate mysteriousness of his titles. The Swimming-Pool Library, for example, makes no immediate sense to anyone who was not educated at a prep school where senior boys who wield authority over younger ones are known as "librarians." Yet the title serves as a metaphysical conceit, boldly yoking together spaces variously athletic and intellectual that are traditionally unrelated in order provocatively to suggest that a place of physical exercise and sexual cruising might function as the occasion for academic research or the general pursuit of knowledge.

Likewise, The Folding Star derives from a pastoral image in Milton's Comus, the appearance of the evening star signaling to the shepherd that it is time to lead his flock from the field safely home to the fold. The allusion ironically invests Edward Manners with the functions of Milton's Attendant Spirit, who is charged with guiding lost youth through the dark forest of experience, particularly sexual experience.

And The Line of Beauty subversively makes use of a technical term in eighteenth-century aesthetics and architectural design to describe the curving dip in a man's lower back before it flares out again in the fullness of the buttocks, thus highlighting the novel's pronounced anal eroticism. "Line" also suggests Nick and Wani's growing reliance upon cocaine to produce a feeling of euphoria during tedious social events, and as a stimulus during their sexual three-ways with the partners they bring home.

Hollinghurst's titles admit of multiple, rich, yet initially puzzling constructions whose full and oftentimes surprising significance emerges only as each novel's plot unfolds. In much the same way, the reader's knowledge of Hollinghurst's principal characters, and even a protagonists's knowledge of himself, invariably proves incomplete or misguided for the greater part of the novel. Hollinghurst's characters deepen as enigmas as their contradictions emerge and ambiguities heighten--often, ironically, as they go about their daily routines, performing perfectly mundane tasks.

Readers may be unsettled by the lack of moral absolutes in Hollinghurst's works. Desire proves to be a motivating force that renders one alternately caring and selfish, mysterious and pedestrian. For example, is Matt a charismatic sexual adventurer besieged by a naively enamored Luc, or a cynical opportunist who went about seducing the boy after Edward foolishly enlisted Matt's help spying on Luc and his friends? Is he a farcically inept pornographer guilty only of attempting to make money the easiest way that he can, or is he somehow responsible for the death of a local hustler, whose body was found floating in a canal, and whom Edward recognizes by his tattoo as one of the faceless actors in one of Matt's cheap films? Hollinghurst leaves the reader to ponder the enigma of Matt, who is as often repellent as he is alluring.

Hollinghurst's novels prove him to be a poet of moral ambiguity, who can be as archly witty as Ronald Firbank and Vladimir Nabokov, and as psychologically astute as Henry James and Marcel Proust.

Raymond-Jean Frontain

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Alderson, David. "Desire as Nostalgia: The Novels of Alan Hollinghurst." Territories of DeLsire in Queer Culture: Refiguring Contemporary Boundaries. David Alderson and Linda Anderson, eds. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. 29-48.

Bradley, John R. "Disciples of St. Narcissus: In Praise of Alan Hollinghurst." The Critical Review 36 (1996): 3-18.

Brown, James N., and Patricia M. Sant. "Race, Class, and the Homoerotics of The Swimming-Pool Library." Postcolonial and Queer Theories: Intersections and Essays. John C. Hawley, ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2001. 113-27.

Canning, Richard. [Interview with Alan Hollinghurst.] Gay Fiction Speaks: Conversations with Gay Novelists. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. 331-65.

Corber, Robert J. "Sentimentalizing Gay History: Mark Merlis, Alan Hollinghurst, and the Cold War Persecution of Homosexuals." Arizona Quarterly 55.4 (Winter 1999): 115-41.

Galligan, David. "Beneath the Surface of The Swimming-Pool Library: An Interview with Alan Hollinghurst." The James White Review 14.3 (Fall 1997): 1-7.

_____. "On Hampstead Heath: An Interview with Alan Hollinghurst." The James White Review 15.1 (Winter 1998): 10-13.

Gambone, Philip. [Interview with Alan Hollinghurst.] Something Inside: Conversations with Gay Fiction Writers. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999. 231-46.

Gee, Allen. "An Interview with Alan Hollinghurst." Gulf Coast 11.2 (1999): 32-41.

Hollinghurst, Alan. "On The Ivory Tower." New York Review of Books (March 11, 2004): 26-28.

Murphy, J. Stephen. "Past Irony: Trauma and the Historical Turn in Fragments and The Swimming-Pool Library." Literature and History 31.1 (April 2004): 58-75.

Sinfield, Alan. "Culture, Consensus and Difference: Angus Wilson to Alan Hollinghurst." British Culture of the Postwar: An Introduction to Literature and Society 1945-1999. Alistair Davies and Alan Sinfield, eds. London: Routledge, 2000. 83-102.

Stead, Alistair. "Self-Translation and the Acts of Transposition in Alan Hollinghurst's The Folding Star." Translating Life: Studies in Transpositional Aesthetics. Shirley Chew and Alistair Stead, eds. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999. 361-85.


    Citation Information
    Author: Frontain, Raymond-Jean  
    Entry Title: Hollinghurst, Alan  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated October 11, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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