{INTRO}Whoah, it was fierce; it was wild.

Lived next to a


(Nice old


Shame about the


Telly came out the


Right through the

The house next to


S C A R Y.


Live in my

Front room;


Broke in


{SLOW DOWN/DEAD PAN!} It was all very traumatic but there were two especially bizarre incidents: a prostitute gave a client a blowjob in our shared alleyway; and mum and dad would arrive for tea, for my dad to be greeted- shouted raucously through the window-by the Madam:”do you want business, love”…




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I am looking at a photo of myself(Christmas Eve, 1988), taken in Huskisson Street, Toxteth, when I was twenty nine: I am sporting a rather fetching fringe(where did all my hair go?).

I am in my second(Liverpool) flat, since coming out as a (mainly!)strong, openly gay man. I am pretending to drink a bottle of whiskey, standing with arm on the shoulder of an erstwhile friend (and father figure). There are Gay Mens Press novels on the shelves, mildly homo-erotic cut-out pictures on the wall, letters (whom were they from?), posters from the Anti Clause 28 campaign I was then involved with

and the (obligatory) empty wine bottle, covered in wax!

{We are “all our yesterdays”, Shakespeare, “Macbeth”; we are, also, all our todays and tomorrows}

This flat was a wonderful base for peregrinations outwards to the “scene” (Sadie’s, Jodie’s et al; of which, also more, later) and the Link Centre(to be continued!). Ten minutes walk from town. It was also a hub for lgbt(l and g, as it was then)political activity around the anti Clause 28 Campaign.

That I experienced such an in-the-fast-lane life, then, I struggle to compute, now; but I did, and that life helped me become who I am (now): a WHOLE person, happier in my personhood as an openly gay man(despite the exigencies and trials of living thus in 80s UK; and we were lucky in comparison with much of the rest of the world).

Huskisson Street: the starting-point for all the following ramblings forwards and backwards of these vignettes……..

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And so I repaired(being the word), once more, to the newly re-invented, struggling treasure-trove of a bookshop (with café:)). It wasn’t term time but the café was twentyfold busier than its host bookshop. It had become a weekly joy(tinged with sadness) and routine… almost a pilgrimage.


“It’s only a business/a shop”; “an outpost of capitalism”.

“Its a bit saddo coming here every week!”.


My higher self SHOUTS back:

“It’s MORE than that to me{personal construct]: it is a bolthole, a haven, a sanctuary; IT IS SAFE; it is sociable:friends; or people just sat reading books in the café, like me, or peregrinating round the (small number of) aisles and shelves for that elusive book-hit, book-buzz, the perfect, elusive book; a silent communion of unknown book and coffee lovers. (The super-ego feels it has to state, clearly, I don’t think these strangers are my FRIENDS; I DO actually meet friends and partners there; you get it?. I am not talking to random denizens of bookshop or café!{though why not???!}We worry so much about what people think and internalise it{that is why people do not come out as gay}). Bookfilled and espresso-enlivened solitude is beautiful. Also, it is an ACADEMIC bookshop(ok, you might have guessed which one it is!), with novels(3 for 2, a small-ish but quirky collection). AND- though I sometimes use this a as a(semi) specious “reasoning” for buying from there {less books each time, like coming off a tranquillizer}-it needs supporting; the chain has CLOSED other branches, under fire from Amazon and the web generally. It is a creation of capitalism and a VICTIM of capitalism, in the vicious ideology’s need for endless re-invention and cycle of devouring itself{Lewis’s FAILED to re-invent, and, well, failed}.

SO, it is my well-worn (self)psychogeographical theme, which started with the decay of Lewis’s in 2010

My OWN body is in trouble now; the metaphor, unfortunately, works even better, and on even more levels: the fragile shop= a symbol  of my vulnerable, beleaguered body….

The little shop is also a metaphor for how we all( some more than others!) have to/choose to(if you are lucky) re-invent ourselves/our lives, to find-existentialist-meaning for going on going on.

Everything reflects back on itself/itselves like a (fairground) hall of mirrors: Jeremy, myself, up against the odds but persevering (fiery sometimes!).


Perhaps, the little bookshop/café is the place to write my hommage/thank you/tribute to the Right Honourable Jeremy Corbyn, M.P, who led the Labour Party for 21 months (projecting forward to election day); who, I hope dearly, will be Prime Minister: HE constantly re-invents himself; an inspiration and a hero….{ to follow}


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In homage, and with affection, to my dear friend Michael:).

Michael said bookshops were “safe spaces” for him;and, I thought, they are safe for me too.

Here is one

To (re) coin some fruity (!) images, they are island/oases amidst the turbulent sea and barren deserts of  “real life”,( with its medical horrors and its quotidian irritances and others’ incompetences.)

Escapism/”escapism” is not wrong!Sometimes, it is the ONLY(rational) response  to beleagurement(of the body, for instance), to “challenging”{euphemism}situations; be it being ensconced on my chaise-longue IMG_6083(with its implications of comfort/security,nay decadence{VERY Huysmans, darling}; sat next to dear friends, discussing literature: beloved friends with whom I can talk about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.(Thanks, ineffably, to them for the consolation and emotional/intellectual stimulation they bring:)); or, be it a BOOKSHOP(though the heavenly drug of the mass book-spend/ the glorious coveting must be controlled and GRADUALLY{like a drug-addict withdrawing bit by bit}reduced, if only for financial reasons because I want to OWN, to POSSESS, to IMBIBE the whole world’s books);

or, a café, wherein to read(currently Ali Smith’s book- with its beautiful end-paper illustrations, including book-art-“Artful”, 2012,musings on time, literature, love and loss): there I hunker down, with espresso and muffin.

How we construct our own safe(r) spaces is a big topic, especially if you are from a minoritized grouping and have experienced, for instance, homophobia in some public spaces


I am a gay man{have I told you that?!:P}; and , by no means, feel safe everywhere. But in some chaincafes and in Boho indie cafes, I feel safe, with my (queer/gay) books, thoughts and writings.

But how couldst I forget my gay/queer space in my OWN home; my own repository of untold, now RE-told gay/queer stories, history and culture: check out the titles; it is “a room of my own”; my own IMG_6038(safe) bookshop:)





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Yes, I remember


A Cavernous,

Art deco,


Gay and Goth happily mixed on a Monday night;fogs of dry ice: in a former ballroom. I do not recall much save the FEEL of it: the extravagant costumes, the loudly pulsating hi-nrg; MUCH more-superficially, anyway- glam than Sadie’s. But it did not quite do it for me again; perhaps something, once more, about little fish in a big pond(EVERYONE was showing off/exhibiting themselves). The anthems were the same(perhaps a bit more indie pop and slightly less wonderful tackiness!); but sounded like gargantuan and musical orgasms and rushs of almost Handelian grandeur(the extended Pirate mix of Maria Vidal’s “Body Rock” was the acme of this sheer exhibitionistic adrenalin fix). “The State ” was not, really, a copping off place; most people were too up themselves to consider anyone BUT themselves; but it was an experience; and differentiated Monday nights from Sadies and Jodys nights.


I am writing this in some haste… and memory(recall, that is) benefits from a slow ruminatory chew(to be tautologous) on that elusive madeleine; so perhaps this is a holding post(holding in the archives of memory) for further teasing out of the lost remnants to re-vivivify into the present of the fully conjured up past…..

{More to come…}

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Pain in Joy

{“SQUARE BRACKETS”. That is a luxury if you actually experience physiological pain, especially if unpredictable and/or severe}

But it’s a nice

Conceit, for un



{“SQUARE BRACKETS”.Ultimately, as Monica Pearl admits, in “Bliss:Opera’s Untenable Pleasure”,collected in “Writing Otherwise”, ed Stacey and Wolff, 2013; a promising, fragmented tome, which explores, not unanalogous to my own writings,the breakdown(nay, destruction) of the line between “academic writing” and “creative writing”; I am doing it now with my square brackets; heaven forfend, I should re-inforce that point lol: viz:She acknowledges that  bliss/ecstasy (mere approximitizations to the onomatopaeic ring/savour of the French original)can only really be sexual/ sensual, experienced IN the actual body; but it is a reference to a sort of intellectual orgasm, like you /I get when I do a massive raid on a bookshop, for the mechant, crazy pleasure/jouissance-the pain is spending too much money-of somehow(irrationally) imbibing/ingesting books sans number/numberless. So let us go with jouissance and its translations!}.

“Shudder” was


Word For the

“name of the

Name”; the ineff

Ability of


So, HEAR those Italian

Stretti; those Con-

Catenations of


Orgasms in

Sound; As all the


Plenitude of



{Ends of Act 2, by Donizetti, Bellini  (early) Verdi et al}



{read Wayne Koestenaum, “The Queens Throat”,1993,a fabulously,(darling) florid rodomontade and gallop through the glorious excesses of the diva, and Italian opera, in (knowingly) purple yet poetic prose-poetry; all in a homoerotic context of “sublimation” of the (Schopenhauerian ) will of sex into singing, and the point of orgasm release transmuted into vocal enunciation. These poor old queans, we might say, pejoratively,nowadays: they weren’t getting any so they THREW it all into opera.}


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inspiration/catalyst: “Gay in the 80s”(Clews,2017).

I have written (here ) about my part in the anti-Clause 28 campaign and two other campaigns with that activist group

But I also lived a somewhat hedonistic- though running parallel with a good deal of angst!-life in clubs, and social groups- between 1984 and 1989 in Liverpool:

Came out in an EXPLOSION; little flat in Princes Gate East, mainly a crashpad for 3 /4 nights per week in





Thinking I was God’s gift(pretty boy),dancing to HI-NRG/EURO/GAY disco{ I still have the 12″(!) vinyl of some of those obscure(now) but popular(then) gay,upbeat “we are what we are(deal with it!)” anthems; “Ski-ing in the Snow”, “First time I had you..”,”The Night(Valerie Dore): (anyone remember those?); and, of course “Body Rock” and “Loves Gone Mad”(most still on U-Tube)}

I danced my tits off: in front of the mirror in Sadie’s , requesting tracks; basically showing off! With lots of friends: clubs were not just about dancing and the (rare!) copping off: they were( to me and my friends, anyway) about solidarity (in a heterosexist world; worse in those days), camaraderie, sharing thoughts about crushes, lust AND our feelings.

The evening usually started with ( a longforgotten bit of gay Liverpool history here!)a visit to the “Link” centre, which gravitated from a top floor climb in a ramshackle old building in Colquitt Street to, well, a top floor semi-desuetudinous building in Bolton St. In both, breathlessness, by the time you got to the top of four flights, was de rigueur, plus a large dose of anticipatory anxiety!(I think the Bolton St premises were extant from the early 90s, (because I had an 18 month interval in Manchester); but memories are, sometimes, hazy(and my madeleine is, only, this act of {re}writing). SO, got to the top of the stairs: a little group huddles in a small room(in both venues), with a decrepit coffee bar. But what matters is that we are friends; we share and talk; and it is our base from which to hit “the scene”(often via “The Lobster Pot”, still extant in Ranelagh St, when I last noticed)

{Tenses; past=(partly) present; at least it is via memory; Derridean traces and Benjaminesque constellations}.

Anyway cod(and chips!:P) philosophy aside, we usually hit Sadie’s early, 10.30 ish

{Gosh, I can feel my present life slipping away a little: I am so ensconced in these past memories; and the past is,sometimes, safe, where the present is not(always)}

I am ashamed of my allegiance, nay obsession, with this club because Sadie only allowed women in if he knew them.

WE often used to sit opposite the front room bar: Steve, Ian, Neil (where are they now?), others and myself; as someone entered up the stairs {gay/lgbt venues in Liverpool are usually, even now, underground, or ABOVE ground} we turned our heads in case he was “the one”( though I am not sure how much I really wanted a boyfriend but, more likely, wanted validation of my attractiveness by sleeping with more men). Joky competitiveness over cute ones would ensue……. Sadie stood, always, by an open window, askance for homophobes, I suppose, silently vetting{when he died, the club endeavoured to survive, for a while, sans him, but collapsed; early /mid 1990s}.

After much uproariousness, dancing with a Stella in one hand, gossip, mixed with emotional sharing, we would wait (even on a Monday night) to the bitter end,as the slowie came on and you had either copped or not(usually, the latter; though I had my moments, occasionally); then comfort eating from a chippie and sometimes back to the flat of one of us(and work at 9 am; how did I manage that??!!). Well, I was young….

Sometimes it was Jodys, which, to me, was more intimidating; people were more cool(ok, basically I was not the big fish!); grimy, be-stained walls, sweating with, well, sweat, and sheer undergroundness

I feel I have come to a (natural)halt there… let us say, these rememberances are to be continued… and will continue in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, in the way memories hit us or or are conjured up(by metaphorical madeleine moments)…………


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1, Homosex allied with/equated with “narcissism” in psycho-analytic tradition(hetero-normatively constructed); thereby implied as an incomplete, arrested development. The literary trope of the uncanny doppelganger(for instance in Gothic novel), though it can be queered(ie. positively skewed; torquere=to twist),sets up the homoerotic as a (partially, but sometimes breaking through the heterosexualised surface text) silenced counterpoint: the viola of the textual orchestra. A little tiresome,but thanks to Kosofsky Sedgwick “Between Men”(1985; early!) for elucidating as the beast in James’s “jungle”; and to Helen Finch in “Sebald’s Bachelors:Queer Resistance and the Unconforming Life”(2013)- where would we be without her rightful claiming of the Sebaldian narrators’ queer lineage and extant life in Sebald’s prose fiction-but sad/anger-provoking we have to wade through all this faecal matter of the heterosexist inheritance to actually get to a Good as You (G.A.Y) space. So,according to this patronising, power-based “discourse”, us lesbian gay and bisexual people(yes, because of Tony Blair, from 1999, we have been acknowledged as people, with{nearly} full human rights, in this country anyway) are looking for a “mirror-image” of ourself/ves via other members(!) of the same sex; which, presumably, renders us self-orientated(by definition) and incomplete. This is risible, but ultimately unfunny and very grave, insidious homophobia and fluid -gender -role phobia. They have been running scared for many many years.

IN ACTUALITY, lesbian, gay and bi sexual people often look for OPPOSITES in others, just like heterosexuals: be it hair colour, a different physique, height et al. “What do gay/lesbian people do in bed?” brings this to a head(!), as if, physiologically, any kind of sexual congruence is contested (even,implied, impossible). Perhaps heterosexual people were dropped when they were children(as in on their heads or abandoned); or their mothers/fathers made them like that (Cf. the tables-turned “heterophobic”{NOT; it needed doing} part tongue -in-cheek “Heterosexuality”{as constructed”} published by Gay Mens Press(ed.Hanscombe and Humphreys. 1987))). SO, STOP THE PATHOLOGISING and the “casual” homophobia: it damages people’s lives. I aver strongly that, also, reduction to gender identity dichotomies (“male” v. “female” genitalia, and psychological identities) is itself risible and offensive and hetero-gender-normative; it is offensive to trans people.

So, I got all that out of my system; SO

What is the G. A. Y(“Good as You; people forget it was established as a power-reclaiming acronym)/lesbian/gay/bisexual positive re-appropriation of “doppelganger”/”double”?. De-{heterosexistly} programming my consciousness and sense of self, I say:

  1. It is the brother/sister{to be gendered!]/companion/friend/comrade we all look and yearn for, whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity or asexual orientation/agender identity. Cf Whitman’s Calamus poems.
  2. It is our object of SEXUAL desire too (not incommensurate with the friend trope!).


I am tired of having to RE-FRAME, for psychological/emotional health (and, sometimes, survival) heterosexist/heteronormative/gender-normative discourses in a positive way, which can lead to an equalisation (but queer in sense of difference) of the orientations and gender “norms”; nay, what about a FOREGROUNDING of lgbtq+ discourses, turning the tables,like the groundbreaking Gay Mens Press book(op.cit); that is what the weak ones are afraid of(though I have compassion for those who have the courage to start on the {lifelong] coming out/transitioning process): that we MIGHT become, in social terms and interactions, WHOLE people, sans having to hide parts of ourselves, important parts; without shame or embarrassment…. not the vehicles for the wounded’s {closet queens} projections onto us, and introjections INSIDE us, of their compromised sexual orientations and gender identity insecurities.


I had been going to write more re the Sebaldian narrator’s explorations with doubles/doppelgangers; it is interesting to unpick; but the self-actualised G.A.Y/queer part of me cannot really be bothered; and I really wish, as I have said before, that Finch’s assertion that non-masculinised/non heteronormative/” gay bachelor”/bachelor(what about re-appropriating the abjected single person{ eg “spinster} as well?) modes,which are definitely explored by Sebald and his narrators and characters, DO offer a “flight of resistance” and that we see the doppelganger as the start of a runway to that take-off:)

Please reference{ as well as Finch and Eric Santner(“Creaturely Life”,2006); the only other  two have really explored this area in Sebald studies}, my own :




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THE BLOGS OF A LITERARY ACTIVIST; preface to my happy blog:”Towards Utopia”. BY STEVEN BENSON


About the Blogs of a Literary Activist

This blog, and its less happy(in mood) companion, “Decayetude”, are experiments, a kind of divertissement of variegated styles of writing(styles sometimes simultaneously enacted, sometimes different in each piece/movement).Sincerely felt and meant, it is informed and influenced ,I fully acknowledge,first and foremost by the ineffably diverse and beautiful, all-world-encompassing writings of the late, great W G Sebald(who I feel is my soul-mate in writing, not that I am by any means an equal; just a fellow-traveller); by Walter Benjamin; by Ishiguro’s work “the Unconsoled”; and by rhizomatic style (and sometimes content)in general.

It is concerned , also, with:

1.the reparation from marginalization/invisibilization of lgbt pre-Woolfenden enactment(1967)texts. A sort of, if you like REDEMPTION(in a non-hierarchical-religion; rather a generally spiritual sense)

2.The development of a dialogue between lgbt studies and Queer Theory(and an attempt to differentiate between the two strands of the latter); and

3.(related to 2 ):the avoidance, as far as possible of binary-type thinking, eg allowing lgbt thought/politics to run PARALLEL with Queer Theory, serving different, sometimes overlapping ends.

I am interested in the DISSOLUTION of genres, both in content and style, and , in this connection, the breaking down of the false, unnecessary divide between subjective and “objective”;also-related again-the Birth of the Reader and the concomitant(partial not total) Death of the Author, ie reader response theory, is paramount.

Photographic images are used to counterpoint and illustrate the written themes and content.

I also aim to attempt to(at least) BEGIN to deconstruct another false, socially and hegemonically constructed binary- between academic writing and essayistic, impressionistic, rhizomatic and (at least partly) subjective writing(emblemised in Sebald’s “Place in the Country” volume of essays). The academic establishment does not much allow for the disruption of this binary and , ironically, has developed a Foucauldian discourse of its own, which-enjoyably challenging and exciting as it often is-can be inherently competetive and dialectically based. You will not always find, on these blogs, detailed antitheses to others’ theses, as the “progress” of academic discourse dictates; though, of course, the syntheses of academic and philosophical and critical theory writing can often launch a bringing together of threads,and a moving forward of any debate or construct of thought,( be it towards{any kind of} Utopia or otherwise). Rather my writing is an attempt(at least!)at an OVERVIEW of ideas and constructs, its primary aim being to make LINKS beween areas of critical thought, and literary criticism.


There are also some efforts at actual “creative writing”, though the definitional status of “creative”is, I am beginning to see, negotiable, not fixed, and can include critical theory, philosophy, literary criticism, deconstructing and re-constructing ideas, for instance, and the various, cross/multi genres I attempt

And, finally, the blogs are overtly and deeply POLITICAL in the personal is political and , I hope, the larger scope sense, especially around lgbt equality issues. Literary activist might seem at first glance a mainly oxymoronic term,but I think critical thought and reflection INFORMS and helps create constructive responses in the real world, so that we challenge the status quo, especially where it is in dysfunction; challenge it through constructive reflection on what has gone wrong before and how we can learn. Thus we can learn from the lives of the marginalised and invisibilised characters of, for instance, Sebald’s prose fictions; and make sure that such gross inequality for lgbt people does not happen again in the UK, and that we must therefore fight for equality in other, even less liberal countries.

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