What You Weren’t Reading in 1952

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LITERARY HISTORY is full of the rediscovered. Some authors, indeed, don’t ever “make it” so much as they move from one period of rediscovery—or attempted rediscovery—to the next. But British readers will soon have a chance to read an extraordinary piece of autobiographical fiction by the undeniably long-forgotten author G. F. (George Frederick) Green. In the Making had such a negligible impact on its first publication in 1952, moreover, that in any true sense, its republication sixty years later allows us to discover, rather than rediscover, a major writing talent.

Even in his lifetime (1911–1977), Green was overlooked. Elizabeth Bowen called him “the most neglected writer of his generation.” My own involvement with In the Making began when I was commissioned to edit a U.S. book that would be published as 50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read (2009). Many early contributors came up with familiar, even overly familiar works. So I encouraged others to be more daring. I had a hunch that, of all the figures I approached, Peter Parker—author of a scintillating life of J. R. Ackerley, a wonderful writer who had similarly fallen by the wayside until Parker’s book—was one that I thought might surprise me.

When he mentioned G. F. Green, however, I was initially suspicious. The author’s life story seemed implausibly suggestive or symbolic, for one thing. And In the Making sounded far too good to be true: the sort of novel you might invent, wanting so much for such a book to have existed. As an unapologetic account of a solitary English boy’s adolescent (and pre-adolescent) passions in the 1920’s, the book was, oddly enough, dedicated to Green’s own parents. I state “oddly” because—at a time when homosexual acts were proscribed by British law and the articulation of same-sex desires was consequently quite infrequent—In the Making dared to suggest the possibility—indeed the inevitability—of intense longing on the part of one young adolescent boy for another.

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