Bookends: Prep-school passions

19 May 2012

19 May 2012

In his introductory eulogy, Peter Parker calls In the Making: The Story of a Childhood  (Penguin, £8.99) G. F. Green’s masterpiece, which, though not popular, attracted the admiration of E.M. Forster, Christopher Isherwood, Stephen Spender, J.R. Ackerley, John Betjeman, Philip Toynbee, C.P. Snow, Pamela Hansford Johnson, Frank Tuohy and Alan Sillitoe. According to Elizabeth Bowen, he was ‘the most neglected writer of his generation’.

Explaining the title to his friend Michael Redgrave, Green (pictured above) said: ‘The theme is unequivocally that of the conditioning of a homosexual and the foreshadowing of his future love pattern.’ The novel is about a young boy’s idealistic adoration of an unresponsive older boy in the years they are immured together in a preparatory boarding school.

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The young romantic’s thwarted yearnings are never expressed in terms sensually more explicit than Rupert Brooke’s ‘rough male kiss of blankets’. ‘To write of homosexual love as if it were — which in fact it is — normal,’ Green told a sympathiser, ‘is to thread a way through a labyrinth of disasters. It needs a very pure mind — in the sense of exact, just, full of integrity.’

Green’s own prep-school conditioning led eventually to reckless carnality, imprisonment, alcoholism, nervous breakdown, temporary psychiatric rehabilitation, and suicide. Admirers of his writing seem to have felt it was almost worth all the suffering. I would have preferred the tranquillity of William Boot’s ‘Lush Places’.

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