• BIGfib.com: The best reads this side of the rainbow™ •
• Issue 7 •  
 • The Half-Life Of Hannah Nick Alexander's New Novel  • Will Davis: brand new fictionHow Not To Survive

Paul Burston & Rupert SmithIf your first love came back to offer you everything you ever dreamed of, what would you do?

Hannah is thirty-eight and the happily married mother of eleven-year-old Luke, the diamond in her world. Her marriage is reassuringly stable, pleasantly ordinary and after fifteen years she has managed to push the loves and dreams of youth from her mind and concentrate on the low-key satisfactions of here and now. The first half of her life hasn’t been as exciting as she had hoped, but then, she reckons, whose is?

When she succeeds in convincing husband Cliff to rent a villa in the south of France for their summer vacation she’s expecting little more than a pleasant few weeks with her family. But when a phone call at the villa announces the imminent arrival of a ghost from her past, Hannah’s world is turned upside down.

Suddenly the calm holiday ambiance is transformed into a raging sea of jealousy and drama as Hannah struggles to re-frame the last fifteen years of her life. But is she brave enough to take the life-changing decisions her future happiness requires? Or is she destined to make do with half a life for the rest of her days? <more>

Will Davis How not to surviveSo like, prologue.

I’m going at it on the dance floor like it’s me versus the music. Opposite me is this guy in a chest-hugging Grateful Dead tee who looks like he could be R-Patz’s double, though I can’t tell if it’s for sure or just my MDMA goggles. They’re playing this Lady Ga Ga medley so it’s the definition of a gay cliché, but frankly when you’re floating on one of Danny’s cocktails who even gives a fuck? He’s over in the corner talking to some emo in drag and he runs a hand over his head stubble and catches my eye and flashes me a quick grin. I give him the thumbs up, meaning the goods are like, good. Beside me my gorgeous vision interprets this as the latest move and starts swaying from side to side with both thumbs twisting in the air. I lean forward to tell him what a penis he looks, but the next thing I know I’m copying him, and we’re both doing it, jerking our thumbs up and down like a pair of demented reject hitchhikers. People around are looking at us like we’re this embarrassment to the human race, which we totally are, but even that’s cool as this delicious chill spreads out through my chest and down towards the base of my spine. I’m practically pissing myself from pleasure here.

Just then R-Patz leans in close and takes hold of me, and for a second I’m like, Cocky some? since I haven’t even given him much of the eye or anything. Only instead of locking onto my mouth he aims for my ear instead.

He’s like, Hey buddy, can I get some of that? <more>

 • Peter Daniels • On being a gay poet  • Rose Collis • Four Characters in Search of an Author •

In the last year or so my “career” as a poet has moved a little from the doldrums of a few uneventful decades. Now I’m in my late fifties several parts of my life seem to have started getting together and having conversations that just weren’t happening for years, and being a poet is part of that and also means that poetry is a platform for it.

There is still some awkwardness about this. My poetry life can be quite easily divided into “mainstream” poetry, gay-related poetry, and translation of other poets, mostly from Russian. It’s that piggy-in-the-middle, the being gay, that makes it hard not to treat these as separate parts of me, in a way that a straight poet would not expect. Am I going to shock my maiden aunt with a poem about frottage in Sicily occurring in my book of poems? Being an out gay poet with an interest in Russia, is this going to be hard work with Russians, or if I visit Russia myself? (Putin’s attitude to homosexuality is not untypical of the average Russian thug in the street; I haven’t been there since Brezhnev’s day, when it was illegal but at least you knew where you were with the KGB.)

So despite doing the gay activist bit 30 years ago, like anyone I can get nervous about how to play it, though mostly I manage by expecting other people to deal with it rather than play to their prejudices.

In fact my aunt hasn’t made any comment, and perhaps is just used to being embarrassed by everything. My Russian friend Masha who helps me with idioms is fine about it and is suggesting I have a go at translating the gay poet Mikhail Kuzmin, a Wildean fin-de-siecle character.

Being a queer writer in residence at the London Metropolitan Archives last winter pushed me a level higher in the gay poetry game, and also connected poetry with another part of me I’d rather lost touch with, my gay history interest from when I was with the Hall-Carpenter Archives in the 1980s. <more>

Rose CollisIn May 2011, when I announced my intention of writing and performing in my own solo musical cabaret show, I witnessed a collective raising of eyebrows and the emergence of a recurring (and rather irritating) set of questions: ‘Why do you want to do that? You’re a writer and historian — is this going to be, like, therapeutic for you?’

Given the diminutive measurements of my patience, I am amazed to say that those who posed these questions are still joined to their heads at the neck — but only because, just in the nick of time, I was able to remind myself that, although they knew I’d been performing with two amateur troupes in recent times (Q-Ukulele and Rainbow Chorus), they were unaware that, before I became a writer, I was a performer, singer and songwriter in fringe theatre, from 1979 until 1985.

Ah, those halcyon days! When the prevailing spirit was one of ‘collectives’ and ‘profit-sharing’ — which meant everyone had to do everything, and there were usually no profits to share. But what did that matter? Thanks to Time Out’s listings, I’d discovered that, as a self-taught musician, singer and songwriter, there was a way to perform that didn’t involve three years at drama school, having my Sahf London accent tutored out of me, and where being able to write your own material was not only welcomed, but a heck of a lot cheaper than paying performance rights for established plays. The fact that it also led me — than a questing young dyke — to being nurtured by Brixton’s radical gay/drag community was a bonus of the sort that even RADA couldn’t have offered on its courses. <more>

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