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Andrew Salkey, James Baldwin and the Case of the “Leading Aberrant”: Early Gay Narratives in the British Media
chapterposted on 2023-07-26, 14:24 authored by Kate Houlden
This chapter investigates Jamaican author and broadcaster Andrew Salkey’s literary evocation of the British media world, specifically, his fictional account in the novel The Adventures of Catullus Kelly (1969) of a failed attempt to broadcast a gay narrative on radio in the early 1960s. Like its author, this curious scene raises more questions than it answers, gesturing towards what is not known or, perhaps more accurately, what has been lost from early gay histories of the media. Elsewhere, when writing about Salkey’s contemporary, the British actor Dirk Bogarde — who, famously, did not publicly acknowledge his own homosexuality — Christopher Pullen (2009) has argued that “it is the discourse of homosexual identity more than the illumination of sexual essence, which engenders engagement, and narrative expression” (p. 8). In the spirit of this claim, I argue for the value of Salkey’s ambiguous narrative, using Richard Dyer’s notion of “structural absences” to ask what Salkey’s novel can tell us about social agency and the early representation of homosexual lives in the British media (Dyer 1993). I also relate Salkey’s fictional account to a real-life television interview with the African-American writer, James Baldwin, which was broadcast in 1965. This reveals not only the discursive limits of British media representation more generally, but also the self-policing to which gay men themselves yielded at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK.
Place of publicationBasingstoke, UK
Title of bookLGBT Transnational Identity and the Media