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19 May 2009 @ 01:36 pm
What Do You Mean, "It's Not Supposed to Sound Like That"?  
Let me share this heartwarming little passage, set in the Napoleon era, with you all! The two characters mentioned are officers in the British navy, Bush one step higher in rank than Hornblower. The former has ordered the latter to have a drink of water before carrying on, since their party has just spent "twelve hours of desperate exertion in a tropical climate".

"On the gun platform they were casting loose the remaining guns, and as Bush descended from the platform he saw Hornblower organising other working parties, snapping out orders with quick gestures. At the sight of Bush he turned guiltily and walked over to the well. A marine was winding up the bucket, and Hornblower seized it. He raised the bucket to his lips, leaning back to balance the weight; and he drank and drank and drank, water slopping in quantities over his chest as he drank, water pouring over his face, until the bucket was empty, and then he put it down with a grin at Bush, his face still dripping water. The very sight of him was enough to make Bush, who had already had one drink from the well, feel consumed with thirst again."

- C. S. Forester, Lieutenant Hornblower, 1952

The Hornblower books aren't very slashy on the whole (the Hornblower TV/movie series makes up for this in abundance, though), but they do have their moments. How many times have we seen the Sexily Messy Drinking trope in movies and soft drinks commercials? And how many times have we read the thirst/hunger euphemism for carnal desire in fanfic?
This page is dog-eared in my copy, along with a handful of other pages containing markedly slashy passages and the one with the, when your mind is soaked in Star Trek, funny line "Shall I warp her down the bay, Sir?".

On a related note, does anybody know any good books, other than Maurice and Death in Venice, with homosexual themes?
Nyssa: Fullfrontaligbc on May 19th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
I've never seen or read any Hornblower, but you're right, that passage sounds as slashy as slashy gets!

If you're interested in gay novels, you might try Mary Renault's Alexander the Great Trilogy -- Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy, and Funeral Games. Lots of nice scenes between Alexander and Hephastion, and Bagoas the slave, though they're not real explicit.

Also, Patricia Nell Warren's The Front Runner is a gay classic about the relationship between a coach and an Olympic runner. It was written in the 70's, I think.

I recently read Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman, about a young guy coming of age and realizing he's in love with his family's male houseguest. Beautifully written and very slashy.

Joseph Hansen and John Morgan Wilson write very good hardboiled gay mysteries.

Also, anything by Andrew Holleran, Alan Hollinghurst, or Edmund White.
mrs_conclusion: wohoo!mrs_conclusion on May 20th, 2009 06:25 am (UTC)
Thanks for the wealth of recommendations! I'm too embarrassed to walk up to a member of staff at the library and ask them...

Many of these sound like the non-pretentious, entertaining kind of read I prefer (it was a bit of a crisis when I realised that despite my love for books, I'm not really a literature person). Perfect!
Kelpiekelpie667 on May 19th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
That's indeed very slashy!^^

So far I've only heard about the Hornblower books, but never read them myself.

mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on May 20th, 2009 06:35 am (UTC)
The books are impressive for their realism, they feel incredibly well-researched. They can be a bit heavy on the naval battles at the expense of characters and plot. I heartily recommend the TV/movie series to everybody, though!
Frescafrescadp on May 19th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
Thirsty, eh?
Reminds me of Charlie X saying to Yeoman Janice Rand "When I see you I feel hungry all over..."

This winter I read my first Hornblower, "Beat to Quarters," and posted this passage--sort of self-slash? Hornblower/Hornblower?

"Hornblower stripped off his wet shirt and trousers and shaved standing naked before the mirror.
...He glanced down his naked body. He was slender and well muscled; quite a prepossessing figure in fact, when he drew himself to his full six feet. ...Hornblower hated the thought of growing fat..; he hated to think of his slender smooth-skinned body being disfigured...."

Also good stuff about Hornblower's "melancholy brown eyes, a good mouth," and "tousled curly brown hair," plus all those showers he takes, doused with seawater pumped up from overboard by his steward.
mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on May 20th, 2009 06:59 am (UTC)
"Hungry all over"! Exactly! That's probably one of the instances I was thinking of, too!

Beat to Quarters also has the passage where Bush talks to lady Barbara about Hornblower, which might not qualify as slashy, but where Bush candidly reveals his feelings for him (chapter 22; I've dog-eared that page, too).

How about author/character slash? ;) Hornblower's preoccupation with himself and his appearance, both physically and socially, is an interesting trait for somebody in command, isn't it? He doesn't seem to reflect much over other people, but constantly analyses himself in minute detail, never quite happy with what he finds. That combination of genius and self-doubt is very human and keeps him from becoming just another matinée-film hero.
mortmere: ST:VImortmere on May 19th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
Hah, that bucket scene! I had nearly forgotten it! Now I can’t resist the temptation of quoting two of the slashiest passages from ”The Flying Colours” for us to enjoy (again):

”Bush's hand which lay outside the blanket twitched and stirred and moved towards him [Hornblower]; he took it and he felt a gentle pressure. For a few brief seconds Bush's hand stroked his feebly, caressing it as though it was a woman's. There was a glimmer of a smile on Bush's drawn face with its closed eyes. During all the years they had served together it was the first sign of affection either had shown for the other. Bush's head turned on the pillow, and he lay quite still, while Hornblower sat not daring to move for fear of disturbing him.”

(I only wonder, by the end of this scene, are they still holding hands? TMP’s sickbay scene, anyone?)

Sadly, I can’t think of a Trek counterpart for this one:

”There were the two nights when it rained, and they all slept huddled together under the shelter of a blanket stretched between willow trees - there had been a ridiculous pleasure about waking up to find Bush snoring beside him with a protective arm across him.”

And I might add to the list of gay authors worth reading one David Leavitt. Anything from him is good, but ”While England Sleeps” has the virtue of being a historical novel. Why not also Tom Spanbauer’s ”The Man who Fell in Love with the Moon”, which is a pretty strange piece of historical fiction.
mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on May 20th, 2009 07:09 am (UTC)
Yes! Originally I had plans of making a list of the three or five slashiest Hornblower moments, and of course, these two were top candidates to go on it. I hadn't made the connection with the sickbay scene, but now that you point it out, there is definitely the same sort of atmosphere.

Thanks for the book recommendations! I vaguely recognise the titles, so chances are they're not terribly difficult to get ahold of.
Frescafrescadp on May 20th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of a sweet early scenes in "Moby Dick," when the narrator Ishmael shares a bed with the tattooed whaler (from the South Seas? anyway, an "alien") Queequeg and wakes to find him hugging him.
(I haven't read it but I gather their friendship is one of the classic pair of male soulmates in literature.)

"Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg's arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife.
The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-colored squares and triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no two parts of which were of one precise shade--owing I suppose to his keeping his arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times--this same arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I could hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues together; and it was only by the sense of weight and pressure that I could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.
"I tried to move his arm—unlock his bridegroom clasp—yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me tightly, as though naught but death should part us twain. "

"Moby Dick"
Chapter 4, "The Counterpane,"
I found the full annotated text (helpful!) at
mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on May 21st, 2009 11:59 am (UTC)
How lovely! After this, and looking through the list of chapters on the linked page, I almost want to read the book. I've heard that it's not exactly a light read, though, it seems to be an undertaking of Lord of the Rings proportions.
Frescafrescadp on May 21st, 2009 01:11 pm (UTC)
I have to admit I never got through that book. All that whaling! Maybe I'll try again.
mortmeremortmere on May 22nd, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
Heh, that scene is so great. Their friendship was one of the things that made me start reading Moby Dick two years ago, but I think my project of ploughing through it came to halt at around Ch. XXXII, about whales and nothing but whales. I intend to finish it some day. It's a fascinating book, though I wish it was just a bit less heavy to read... Maybe that e-text helps!

Another reason why I started reading it was of course Star Trek. Any book that heavily referenced in various ST stories needs to be read. Talking of Trek, I just got home from watching Star Trek movie (at last I'm in the know!), and if there were any literary references in it, aside from Spock quoting Sherlock Holmes, I must have missed them (and oh how I missed them)!
Frescafrescadp on May 22nd, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
Oooh---tell more, Mortmere, about what you thought! (A terrible dirth of literary references was one of my sadnesses.) Oh--maybe don't want to spoil it for Mrs. C... On your blog, maybe?
mortmeremortmere on May 22nd, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC)
I'm in fact just now trying to put together a review to post on my blog. Mrs C. reported some time ago that she, too, has seen the film, so I guess the time for the big movie discussion is nigh...