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From the closet to the ghetto

As gay fiction flourishes in an increasingly tolerant atmosphere, a certain literary parochialism has set in. Michael Ratcliffe travels the road from "Dorian Gray" to "Mike and the Marines"

By Michael Ratcliffe   November 1996

In 1958, when I was supply-teaching in Manchester, I bought and devoured an anonymous novel called A Room in Chelsea Square, whose shocking pink jacket would still pulse like phosphorescent candy on a porn bookstall today. Published by Jonathan Cape, it was not porn, but the seedy tale of a provincial journalist who fell among decadent queens and aesthetes and was corrupted with the earthly treasures of London’s cultural world, before rejecting them (the queens, that is).

It was supposedly the work of a famous novelist and said to be disgracefully philistine, even homophobic. But as I was gay, about…

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