Saturday, November 29, 2008

About "The Bloomsbury Nudes"

My short story, “The Bloomsbury Nudes,” is now available in Unspeakable Horror: Shadows from the Closet, edited by Vince Liaguno and Chad Helder and featuring stories by other gay writers such as Rick Reed, Lee Thomas, and Kevin Reardon.

“The Bloomsbury Nudes” is a tale of overlapping relationships centering around the artist Clive Elliott and his companion, dancer Jared Tremain. Clive, in his youth, had posed for the Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant, who privately passed around his nude sketches to his friends like party treats.

Here is some background on how I came to write the story.

In 1988, on the death of a close friend, I came into possession of several Bloomsbury artifacts — correspondence of Lytton Strachey, a sketch by Dora Carrington, and a drawing by Duncan Grant. I knew more of Virginia Woolf than I did of these other Bloomsbury folks, but over the course of many years more knowledge seeped in and my appreciation for these artists deepened. I had always been intrigued by Duncan Grant, an openly gay artist, and was particularly impressed by his nude sketches that I had seen in a catalog published by the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London.

I learned more about these nude drawings through the writings of Douglas Blair Turnbaugh, particularly Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group, published in 1987, as well as from the advent of the Internet and the exhibits and information on the artist available through the Leslie/Lohman Gallery in New York and Adonis Art of London. For years I had toyed with the idea of creating a fictional backstory of the men who had posed for these sketches, and I researched quite a bit on who they might have been. When I sat down in 2007 to write this story, I was influenced by a lot of the horror anthologies I was reading at the time, and I decided it was apropos to have a young artist be one of Duncan Grant’s nude models, and that’s how I came to the character of Clive Elliott. It was also during this writing process that I decided to overlap the influences of Aleister Crowley, another legendary British fellow whose life and career and writings had always intrigued me. In the story, Clive Elliott, Jared Tremaine, Bart Pearson, Roger Sage, and Teddy Rushton are all fictional characters and Crowley’s link and association with the men of the Bloomsbury group is purely from my own speculation.