Poppy Mandragora and the New Sex
Panther, London, 1967
for Richard Simon
dedication: for Richard Simon
The blurb on the back:
'They are like a clam, moving mysteriously through London, their identity masked, but undermining all the community's absurd notion of what sex and marriage ought to be...'
No, I don't know either. You've seen the cover, you've read the sleeve notes - I don't have much to add. I read it from cover to cover, but I still have no idea what it is or where it fits into anything.
Thing is, there's this brilliant but decidedly odd scientist/therapist who's rehabilitating men sent to gaol for homosexual offences, and the strategy he's chosen to reintroduce them to the community is to transform each into some kind of ladyboy who can marry into the upper echelons of British society. Is this a satire on the decadence of the English ruling class? On the increasing androgyny of modern culture? On the abuse of science in the service of social engineering? Or is it a statement on the position of homosexuality in Britain at the time of Roy Jenkins' liberalising endeavours?
I don't know. And I don't know why I finished this book either. It's perfectly readable, but unlike Spencer's earlier success Anarchists In Love, it lacks any kind of focus. Or - to be a touch unkind - any point at all. I rather think that Panther might have been struggling with what constituted modern fiction at this stage of the 1960s.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 4/5
An Absurd Affair