Staff Picks for Pride Month

In celebration of Pride Month, the team at The London Magazine wanted to share our favourite reads and authors which have furthered our understanding of the queer experience. Each of this month’s picks has provided insight into the social or political discussions surrounding LGBTQ+ identity. As a body, the list blends celebration of queerness with exasperation at its oppression, both past and present, in an eclectic, vibrant portrait of the LGBTQ+ community.

 

Steven O’Brien, Editor

Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

Borstal Boys by Brendan Behan’s

 

Both texts (the first one set in 1930’s Berlin; the second in 1940s England) offer nuanced explorations of sexuality within periods of great conflict and individual peril.

 

Lucy Binnersley, Associate Editor

The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis

Love Letters: Vita and Virginia by Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf

 

Louis’ internationally acclaimed autobiographical novel captures his deeply resonant coming-of-age story. The End of Eddy is a fearless and brutally visceral portrait of growing up gay and poor in the hyper-masculine working-class culture of post-industrial France. This overtly violent novel is a modern portrait of how class frustrations and the the self-perpetuating cycle of poverty can infect the social constructions of gender and sexuality.

 

Love Letters is a deeply intimate collection of letters and diary entries outlining the cultural importance of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West’s relationship. More than a passionate love story, theirs was also a genuinely deep friendship and connection which ebbed and flowed over the years. This vivid, at times playful, collection presents both at their most delightfully entertaining and fiercely intellectual. It offers a remarkable insight into Woolf’s character, her genius, and the relationship that would inspire her greatest literary works. 

 

Jamie Cameron, Assistant Editor

The Niagara River by Kay Ryan  

 

I have loved Kay Ryan’s poetry for a long time, so when it came to picking a writer for this she was an almost immediate choice. Although she has rarely written explicitly about her life as a gay woman – she tends to avoid using the personal “I” in her poetry, and has never seemed particularly interested in reproducing a kind of documentary version of her personal life – her poems are deeply suggestive, and often compressed into a small space on the page. There is never a word or line wasted.

Poems like ‘Home to Roost’, ‘Niagara River’ and ‘Carrying a Ladder’, are packed with internal rhyme and repurposed cliche, the kind of poems that on first reading might make you laugh, but that you’ll discover later have been haunting you for weeks. In the opening lines of ‘Repulsive Theory’ she writes, “Little has been made / of the soft, skirting action / of magnets reversed”. You could say her poems are this way too. Soft, weightless, but with each line pushing against those around it to produce a kind of invisible pillow on which they rest. Maybe it’s weird to say, considering she was the Poet Laureate of the United States, but more people should read her.

 

Katie Tobin, Marketing and Editorial Assistant

salt slow by Julia Armfield

 

Julia Armfield’s salt slow is nothing short of a visceral and fantastical collection of short stories. Intertwining the mythic with the everyday, her tales of bodily horror feature teenagers with insatiable appetites and PhD students who collect male body parts. Exploring retribution and transformation – be it through adolescence or metamorphosis into insects – Armfield charts the surreal strength of the feminine body. While these other-worldly goings-on draw upon elements of horror, mythology, and science fiction, they’re grounded by a ubiquitous sense of obsession, love, and revenge. salt slow‘s darkly vivid description punctures throughout, even in passing with imagery like a sky ‘gory with stars, like the insides of a gutted night.’

‘Cassandra After‘ is the collection’s most explicitly queer tale, following a woman coming to terms with her sexuality made all the more difficult when her girlfriend dies and then rises from the dead. The haunting spectre of Catholicism also lingers throughout salt slow, in both the mourning rituals of ‘Cassandra After‘ and the religious fanaticism of ‘Stop your women’s ears with wax’. And in stories like ‘Smack’ and ‘Salt Slow’, water persists as an enigmatic, beguiling force which holds endless potential. Florence Welch lauded Armfield’s debut novel, Our Wives Under the Sea, as ‘a contemporary gothic fairytale, sublime in its creepiness’ – and I can’t think of a more fitting summary of salt slow, either.

 

Katharine George, Editorial Intern

Overflow by Travis Alabanza

 

“Before I’d go to the women’s bathroom to escape the potential fists in the men’s. But now the choice is between a fist or a hug that sinks its claws in. That turns you inside out. Examines every part of you and decides if you can be here. Like police inside a space that was a sanctuary.”

A one act, one-trans-woman, one setting play, Overflow by Travis Alabanza appeared an initially simple concept but left me balanced precariously in a world of nuance and ambiguity. Rosie, a young trans-woman, recites her monologue from the confines of a flooded public bathroom cubicle, caught between the danger of the rising water levels and the threat of the outside world. Alabanza’s setting transforms a familiar place that I have long regarded as safe, constant and categorical into something alien and unreachable as I followed Rosie navigate her position between the gendered spaces of ‘male’ and ‘female’. Set against the grimy background of a London club bathroom, the play maintains a playful, barefaced tone appropriate for its captivatingly candid protagonist. Alabanza captures Rosie’s frustration at the boxes society expects her to check in a hilarious, yet dark account of her life as a transgender women beyond the four walls she has ironically taken refuge in. As a discussion around the difficulties of navigating binary categories and gendered locations for transgendered people, Overflow provides an entertaining, thought-provoking glimpse into the spaces between the boxes.


To discover more content exclusive to our print and digital editions, subscribe here to receive a copy of The London Magazine to your door every two months, while also enjoying full access to our extensive digital archive of essays, literary journalism, fiction and poetry.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on info@thelondonmagazine.org. Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.
SUBSCRIBE