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Because We're Queers: the Life and Crimes of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton [Hardcover]

Simon Shepherd
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Gay Men's Press (1 April 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0854490906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0854490905
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 12 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 322,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Polemical Study 23 Feb 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a stridently polemical book seeking to 'reclaim' Orton from 'straight society' and give him back to the gay community. It is the antidote to John Lahr's Orton biography that was too easy on Orton and too hard on Kenneth Halliwell. Shepherd's book is not a conventional biography but rather a sociological investigation of Orton, Orton's plays, the Orton industry and everything to do with the man from Leicester. Shepherd namechecks everyone from Herbert Marcuse and Stuart Hall to Stanley Cohen and Ray Gosling as he seeks to find out why Orton still provokes such a reaction. He ridicules Lahr for being obsessed with Halliwell's lack of hair and castigates Orton's agent for failing to help him with his research. (He is especially annoyed that he was not allowed to read the original Orton diaries.) So, yes, it is a highly personal book but still a very good one. One gets the impression that the author never strayed too far from his study and local libraries to do this book (he mentions one brief visit to see an exhibition in Leicester) but that should not detract from the basic worth of the book. It should be read in addition to Lahr's biography and not instead of.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Polemical Study 12 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover
Simon Shepherd's book is a useful corrective to John Lahr's 'official'version of the Orton legend. As well as being a much stronger writer than Lahr, Shepherd has the additional advantages of being both English and homosexual (the first is definitely an advantage when it comes to studying Orton, the second somewhat less so, I'd say). He takes an axe to Lahr's portrayal of the Halliwell-Orton relationship, exposing its underlying homophobia and giving us a new interpretation of Halliwell's role, which I find far more convincing than anything offered by Lahr.

I've docked one star because the book is defintely a product of its times (1988) and is full of furious venting against clause 28, Thatcher, et al - all very germane back then, but nowadays sounding very old hat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To be read in conjunction with Lahr's book 24 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is rather an academic approach to Orton's work. It is not a biography in the way Lahr's book is but rather a critique of the social and political situation at the time Orton was both maturing and writing. It analyses many of the situations Orton had to navigate to become a successful playwright i.e. having to defer to and socialise with classes of closeted homosexuals in the theatre world responsible for staging his works. He hated them as a group and could never identify with them. Nor could he identify with the middle classes to which they belonged and which formed them. He created his works as a solitary homosexual writer (with an unquantifiable contribution from Halliwell). He was not establishment but needed it to get his work on stage.

The book is slightly dated now and would probably be written in a different style were it published today as the writer betrays his 70's sociological education. His views on marriage however are still pertinent and he shows Orton and Halliwell in a rather modern light in rejecting any `marriage' as merely trying to copy a social institution used to keep a Capitalist economy in power. In saying that it is still an excellent academic read and should be read after Lahr's biography and not before. Both works are needed to get some balanced picture of Orton and his legacy.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book 17 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A good book by the much missed Joe Orton, a very talented man in writing stage shows and books, if you know and understand this man your find this book smashing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars To be read in conjunction with Lahr's book 25 Mar 2014
By Michael Soros - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book is rather an academic approach to Orton's work. It is not a biography in the way Lahr's book is but rather a critique of the social and political situation at the time Orton was both maturing and writing. It analyses many of the situations Orton had to navigate to become a successful playwright i.e. having to defer to and socialise with classes of closeted homosexuals in the theatre world responsible for staging his works. He hated them as a group and could never identify with them. Nor could he identify with the middle classes to which they belonged and which formed them. He created his works as a solitary homosexual writer (with an unquantifiable contribution from Halliwell). He was not establishment but needed it to get his work on stage.

The book is slightly dated now and would probably be written in a different style were it published today as the writer betrays his 70's sociological education. His views on marriage however are still pertinent and he shows Orton and Halliwell in a rather modern light in rejecting any `marriage' as merely trying to copy a social institution used to keep a Capitalist economy in power. In saying that it is still an excellent academic read and should be read after Lahr's biography and not before. Both works are needed to get some balanced picture of Orton and his legacy.
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