Title: Man's World
Author: Rupert Smith
Tags: #gayliterature #theimitationgame #queerfiction
Discovered: Strand Book store, NYC
Where read: (In part) Black Seed Bagel, NYC
Why read now?: The Imitation Game on film has shed light on this period in gay history. A Man's World turns the brightness up some more.
The Word's Shortlist view:
"....and that's why this diary will remain hidden inside the lining of my suitcase along with the copies of Health and Strength and Man's World.."
Man's World tells two parallel stories, a queer timeline if you like between the 1950's and the present day in which the lives of the two leads, Robert and Michael, couldn't be further apart.
Robert lives the kind of lifestyle that, on the surface at least, prioritises a diet of gym, drugs and clubs. Sex is straight-forward and available but relationships are half formed and transient. On the other hand Michael's life on National Service at an RAF base on the 1950's is closeted, secretive and risky.
Life for Michael and friends after the War was inconceivably tough but is brought to vivid life with real dignity by Smith (reminiscent of the similar parallel lines in The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell). For me the story should have explored this aspect far more rather than drawing parallels with today. The shift between the two generations is just two vast to convey in a relatively short novel.
This book is not exactly full of likeable characters but the chapters concerning Michael and Mervyn in the 50s and 60s are the most succesful. There are times when you'll want to skip over the minutiae of Robert's destructive relationship with Stuart however, stick with it because, as a device, this works well to heighten the tension between the two strands. When lives overlap, you can make your own judgement.
In short, a great read but we want more Mr Smith!!