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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Sex and Perrier

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

In his chapter about his early experiences as a homosexual, Alan Bennett in Untold Stories provides a sardonic and persuasive metaphor that puts paranoia about homosexuality in its proper place.

Throughout a chapter called "Written on the Body," Bennett recounts his awkward shyness as a young man, his slow adolescence, and his struggles to both articulate and act upon his sexual feelings. More than anything, he simply wanted to find companionship and to enjoy sex, without necessarily being voracious or public about it. He did not choose his sexual orientation; it is just something that seems to have happened to him at school, almost unnoticed.

At a party hosted by Ian McKellen in 1989, to support the abolition of Clause 28, Bennett relates the following anecdote about one of his readings at the event:
I introduced the extract, saying that to enquire (as McKellen had done) if I was homosexual was like asking someone who had just crawled across the Sahara Desert whether they preferred Malvern or Perrier water.
Just as the man in the desert wants water, and its precise variety is irrelevant, so any individual wants (is even at times desperate for) love, sex and companionship. It is - or ought to be - irrelevant whether this need may be satisfied by attachments to those of the opposite sex, or of the same sex. This humanitarian observation is one that those religious conservatives who are petrified of homosexuality would do well to take note of. To be concerned about sexual preference is to miss the bigger picture of why sex and relationships matter in the first place, as necessary as water to the full and nurtured human life, and not something which anyone should be deprived of or chastised for.

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Posted by Alistair at 10:57 am

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