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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
UK hunts for favourite gay novel
Tipping the Velvet
Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet was made into a BBC drama series
A hunt for the UK's favourite lesbian or gay novel has been launched, with books by Alan Hollinghurst and Sarah Waters among the early contenders.

Inspired by the BBC's Big Read search, the Big Gay Read is open to any lesbian or gay-themed novel in a public vote.

Devised by librarians and publishing agency Commonworld, suggestions so far include Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty and Waters' Tipping the Velvet.

The winner will be named in May at Manchester's Queer Up North festival.

"Lesbian/gay literature is an important part of the lives of many people, especially in the coming out process," Commonworld development worker Cathy Bolton told The Guardian newspaper.

Jake Arnott The Long Firm
Amanda Boulter
Around the Houses
Michael Cunningham
A Home at the End of the World
Stella Duffy Calendar Girl
Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex
Alan Hollinghurst
The Line of Beauty
Dorothy Porter
The Monkey's Mask
Colm Toibin The Story of the Night
Sarah Waters
Tipping the Velvet
Jeanette Winterson
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Source: Commonword
"The first time a woman or man finds a reflection of what they are going through can often be in a book or film.

"But until recently, there were very few books that could speak to them of their own experience."

A joint project between Manchester, Salford and Blackpool libraries, Commonword and Time to Read, organisers hope Big Gay Read will introduce readers to a wider range of novels.

Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty won the 2004 Man Booker Prize while Waters' Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith were adapted for two BBC drama series.

Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Jake Arnott's The Long Firm were also adapted for television, and appear in a list of 21 suggested Big Gay Read contenders.

The book hunt is being launched as part of Manchester's annual Pride celebrations.

Which lesbian or gay novels have most impressed you? Are more - and better - gay novels available now? Should lesbian and gay-themed novels be separated from other books in this way?

I would urge anybody, straight or gay, to read Paul Monette, especially Becoming a Man or Last Watch of the Night. He writes so engagingly and poignantly about growing up gay and living with AIDS. I think L+G themed novels do have something different to say because for so many of us, just being gay makes us feel different, especially in the crucial early years, and this must have a bearing on later life. We were denied the right to speak freely for so many generations that we must get out there now and tell the world how we feel- understanding breeds understanding.
Adam Tatek, Glasgow, Scotland

Mirrors of Narcissus by Guy Willard - an incredible piece and sadly the sequel book hasn't yet materialised.
Reese Porter, England

I don't understand why Middlesex is on the list as a gay book - no gay characters! The story is about a child born with both sexual organs caused by incest. It's an excellent read and would get my vote as the best on the list.
Tina, Surrey

Ladies Man by John Ramster is a cracking read - funny, rude and entertaining. Should definitely be on the list....
Anonymous, Brussels, Belgium

If we're talking about lesbian books, the top of the list should be Katherine V Forrest's Curious Wine. Karin Kallmaker also needs a mention. They stand out a mile as lesbian novelists. There are the books that everyone has heard of, but there's plenty that aren't as well known that deserve the recognition. Glad there's a Big Gay Read coming up! Well done
Amy, Bristol

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx is an astonishing, wonderful, funny, moving and profound novella about a relationship between two cowboys. It's currently being made into a film, directed by Ang Lee. It's a rare book that makes me laugh out loud and cry. A perfect read.
Ian, London, UK

Hellraiser author Clive Barker is more famous for his horror novels, but he wrote a wonderfully involving and insightful book called Sacrament in which the main character is gay.
Paul, London

I found that the arrival of Amazon.com revolutionised access to gay literature. Bookshops tend to carry very limited numbers of such titles. Amazon not only has a wider range, but can recommend books based on previous purchases and made me aware of a lot of books I would never have come across otherwise. Having said that, my own particular favourites are Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin and The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, both of which are widely available.
John, Edinburgh UK

The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall would have to be in the top 5 at least, not only for being a great novel but you also have to consider the time and social climate it was written in. It's a brave novel. Also Amiee & Jaguar by Erica Fischer, based on a true story of a relationship between a Jewish woman and a wife of a German man living in a Nazi household during World War Two. It's heartbreaking but a great, challenging read all the same.
F. Stevens, Brighton, Sussex

I can't believe that Poppy Z Brite is not among the list. She is a popular writer of modern gothic horror and the vast majority of her books have homosexual relationships, be it overt or subliminal.
Juliet, Ipswich, England

I would put forward Like People in History by Felice Picano. The jacket quotes author Edmund White describing it as the 'Gay Gone With The Wind'. I've read the book multiple times. I would also add my voice to those proposing Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City books. As for having a specific prize for gay work, why not? I appreciate a book store having a Gay and Lesbian section. I want to know when I pick up a book that it going to stand some chance of reflecting a 'lifestyle' or at least a love I can specifically relate to.
Steven Durham, London

Dancer of the Dance by Andrew Holleran is a beautiful book that captures an era and evokes characters full of romance and yet also the tragedy of the pursuit of a wasted life, especially in the pursuit of Love. It's a book that remains vivid in the imagination long after the final chapter is finished.
Paul, London

It has been years since I read it, but I still remember laughing out loud on the New York City subway while ready Joe Keenan's Putting On the Ritz. It was so wonderfully campy and incredibly witty. Reminds me that I should read it again. When will they make a movie out of this book?
William Borst, New Jersey, United States

I am stunned by the absence of one of the greatest of all time, and certainly one of the first. E M Forster's Maurice was not published until his death and is a brilliant story of romance, let alone one of the greatest explorations in a novel of homosexuality.
Jack, London

Jane Rule's Desert Hearts which is surely the rites of passage novel and film for every lesbian there is. Alternatively Katherine V Forrest with Emergence of Green - another classic.
Lesley, Glasgow Scotland

Has to be Nightswimmer by Joseph Olshan. A love story where the main characters happen to be gay. It is beautifully written and is not only my reccommendation for gay literature it is my desert island book!
David Peet, Leicester, Leicestershire

Has to be Tales of the City. But I'll always have a soft spot for E M Forster's Maurice - a fantastic surprise from a small town library when I was fourteen.
Alex, Cambridge

No Night Is Too Long, by Barbara Vine is an excellent story. It is a very dark tale of a student who falls for his tutor. The plot twists and turns as the reader follows the central character, and the painfull lessons he learns from love. It is a good read, as it deals with gay and straight angst in a balanced way.
Phil, London

A book called Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas is just simply superb. It details 24 hours in the life of a young Greek guy in Melbourne who is confused and angry about, well, everything. It was made into an Australian film called Head On which is also worth looking out for. I don't think lesbian and gay novels should be separated from other books because in my opinion sexuality should be integrated into society. Mainstream gay novels promote acceptance of gay values.
Stew, Edinburgh

How can you have Big Gay Read suggestions without mentioning the Harry Potter books, surely the gayest novels of the past 10 years?
Simon Stapleton, Thurso

I'm straight, but I don't think that should have any bearing on whether one can appreciate a love story between two people of the same sex
John Kearney, Malvern
Has to be Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. The first gay book I remember reading (not sure Malory Towers counts). Evokes such wonderful images of San Francisco and is a fantastic read.
Ceri, Manchester

Perhaps the best of love and loss I have ever read is The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault. The narrator, Alexias, is an Athenian youth during the time of the Peloponnesian War and is an acquaintance of Socrates and Plato. The book covers many themes, but the love affair between Alexias and his older male friend Lysis is brilliantly portrayed and deeply moving. I highly recommend it. Just for the record, I'm straight, but I don't think that should have any bearing on whether one can appreciate a love story between two people of the same sex.
John Kearney, Malvern

Tommy's Tale by Alan Cummings is fantastic. Really witty and short enough to keep you interested... after all there is only so much sex and drugs you can read about on the bus to work. Ten out of 10.
Mark Wray, Birmingham

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City is a hilarious story of gay (and straight) life in and around San Francisco. It is one of the only stories to make me laugh and cry out loud. Over the years I have re-read all five books a number of times and each time I enjoy them more. Tales of the City appeals equally to men and women, gay and straight. I have introduced a number of friends to the books and all have become firm fans. The reasonable success of the TV serialisation led to the books moving from a niche corner to a well-deserved prominent position on the shelves of high street book sellers.
Barry, Stevenage

There's nothing at all wrong with separating novels like this - we separate other types of books and it's not an issue
Jo, Manchester
I love The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal. As the first gay novel - banned for many years in the US it tells the story of unrequited love. Anything that sets positive role models for people unsure of their sexuality has to be good.
Paul Walker, Bournemouth, UK

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is possibly one of the best gay books that I've read and brilliantly written. I think Tipping the Velvet was a good (albeit daft) period novel, without the period language. It also brought gay fiction to the mainstream via the TV adaptation. There's nothing at all wrong with separating novels like this - we separate other types of books and it's not an issue. It's also a good way of letting people who are unfamiliar know of what's available.
Jo, Manchester

I would really recommend Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener, a really touching and enjoyable read and Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers - not strictly a gay book, but a classic study of the life of gay man through 90 years of his life, an epic read. As for having a gay and lesbian section, why not? If they were in a general section many great books would be lost amongst the selection.
Garreth, Manchester

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09 Nov 04 |  Entertainment
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19 Oct 04 |  Entertainment
Review: The Line of Beauty
14 Oct 04 |  Entertainment
Sarah Waters: Tipped for the top
11 Oct 02 |  Newsmakers


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