‘The Sparsholt Affair’ by Alan Hollinghurst

J. Daniel Elam at The Quarterly Conversation:

Gossip, speculation, and longing—and the discomfort (and occasional pleasure) of perpetual doubt—are the grounds on which contemporary queer men and women have become used to constructing our genealogies. We possess historical facts enough to fantasize about our “great-grandparents”: the evasive extravagance of Oscar Wilde; the repression with which E.M. Forster asks us to “only connect”; the ambiguity in Djuna Barnes’s famous claim, “I am not a lesbian, I just loved Thelma”; or the half-missing archive of Emma Goldman’s correspondence with women. The following generation of gay men was decimated by a plague, meaning that 30- to 50-year-old gay men will be the first generation to be both openly gay and alive. Even if it is easier now to imagine a queer family of brothers and sisters, it remains much more difficult to imagine a queer lineage. We long for a family tree that never quite appears in full: for queer mothers and fathers that could somehow supplement (or replace) the biological ones whose lives differ so greatly from our own. We construct these families through gossip and speculation, staring at chapter breaks and ellipses until they give us that aunt we might have had. Looking hard enough, we hope, we all might have that aunt.

more here.