28 April 2011

The Folding Star

"So of course you saw him again."
"I probably would have wanted to, because I was a young romantic and to me ten minutes with a handsome stranger was clearly the same as true love, and besides it had the romantic complexities of danger, and sin, as I suppose I thought of it then. I can see now that it also conformed to the sense one had in those years that everything important was secret, and so anything secret must surely be important."
From The Folding Star, by Alan Hollinghurst.
  • I finished reading The Folding Star a couple of weeks ago, but it's only now that I've 'distanced' myself enough to take it in, and perhaps to write a few notes about it. 'Distanced', I guess, because it's a kind of novel that requires you think about it for a little, to sit by yourself and think and let the feelings flourish, in the same manner as one would during the credit roll of an emotional film.
  • The Folding Star isn't so emotional, of course, as it is horny. There's so much sex in it, written by Mr. Hollinghurst in a way that is at once beautiful and disturbing, and narrated by the Edward Manners character in a way that's simultaneously disaffected and right-in-your-face. But in fiction, sex isn't always about sex, or it isn't just about sex, and it is these implied meanings of the carnal — meanings beyond the carnal — that The Folding Star has implored me to contemplate.
  • Which begs the question: am I a reader old enough to contemplate? As shown by the above quote, to the young, beauty and sex are pretty much indistinguishable from love and importance. However, to me, I'm afraid, they are no longer quite so. I must be old! Or I must have grown so much older. Indeed, in a way, I would not have understood The Folding Star if I'd read it at nineteen as well as I did reading it at twenty-six. I would not have pushed the book back to my shelf and thought, for weeks afterwards, oh, how right you are, Mr. Hollinghurst.
  • My copy, by the way, is inscribed with "Wishing you all the best in your literary career". It would have missed the point if it wished me instead all the love in my life.


  1. I'm happy that I'm not the only one disturbed by Mr. Hollinghurst novel. I read this book about 8 years ago or so and I can still remember the two young boys (one beautiful and the other fat and ugly) and the narrator, the Flemish setting and that young guy, whose name I can't recall who had an affair with the Teacher/narrator. I got the chance to read two more books of Mr. Hollinghurst (In Line of Beauty and The Spell) but The Folding Star is my favorite.

    While disturbed, I find the sex scenes so erotic I could still remember it until today.

  2. Hi again Jed,

    Yes, I loved every bit of "The Folding Star". A friend described its writing to me as quite simply "moist", and there is no passage there that isn't beautiful. "The Line of Beauty" may have been more political and important, at least for Mr. Hollinghurst, but it's the "The Folding Star" that's stuck on my mind.