VITA & VIRGINIA BOT (Twitter: @VitaVirginiaBot)
Granted, an automated Twitter bot might not be the most conventional form of literature, but when it’s tweeting excerpts from the love letters of two such literary greats it deserves a place in the list. At times heartbreakingly tender, at others fraught with jealousy, the letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West map the full distance of their decade long extramarital affair, revealing the real passion and turbulence that inspired Woolf’s gender-bending novel Orlando. Their yearning for each other over paper and pen is timelessly romantic, a poignant reminder that love - and love between two women - has always existed in much the same way, even approaching a century since the first letters were written.
GIRL MEETS BOY - ALI SMITH
Ali Smith’s 2007 novel transplants the classical myth of Iphis and Ianthe (in which a girl disguised as a boy from birth falls for a girl and is transformed into a boy so they can ‘realise’ their love) into contemporary Scotland. With a sharp sensibility and deft handling of language, Smith presents love and sex in a pure, genderless form, whilst acknowledging the homophobic culture that marks non-heterosexual love as deviant. Girl Meets Boy might be a gender theorists’ dream, but above all it’s a witty, beautifully written tale of love and family.
South African transgender poet and activist Lee Mokobe shot to prominence in 2015 with a TED Talk performance of a poem about his trans experience. Spanning religious guilt, the awkwardness of childhood and claiming ownership of his body, it is a performance that flickers between beautifully crafted images to poignantly prosaic statements, delivered with equal parts confidence, sorrow and wit. Addressing the obscenely high mortality rate for trans people with the devastating line “My mother fears I have named myself after fading things”, he names Mya Hall, Leelah Alcorn and Blake Brockington, trans suicide and police murder victims respectively. Mokobe – as all great poets can –. links the personal and the political seamlessly, with the effortless charm that comes with genuine talent.
A SINGLE MAN – CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD
One single day in the life of George, a gay university professor dealing with the death of his partner, is all that’s necessary to propel this odd, short novel. Isherwood’s musings on the isolation and hurt of the queer experience strike a chord, infinitely quotable without ever tipping into cliché, and his command of character is compelling. The premise may seem bleak, but ultimately George’s strange interactions with the characters in his little pocket of 1960s California spark a lust for life that transcends his misery.