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Love, Leda

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As a novel there are plenty of things that prevent it quite taking off: it’s one-paced, lacking in any significant character development and ultimately two-dimensional. To think of how it might have shocked, appalled and beguiled in turn, and perhaps even found itself the subject of an obscenity trial. There is no direction to Leda’s life beyond the immediate gratification and he’s savvy enough to understand that for himself.

Leda, like Hyatt, one supposes, lurches from one small pleasure to another without really finding joy in anything – sex is fraught with danger, love is utter disappointment and friendship has a cost of its own. The exhibition was curated by Luke Roberts, who lectures in modern poetry at King’s College London and edited Peninsula Press’s edition of Love, Leda. The novel is written as a first-person narrative, told through the eyes of the titular Leda; a gay, working-class man living in London. On the surface, Love, Leda is a straightforward narrative stroll around 1960s Soho, taking in the sights and the characters of the age in variously humorous, awkward and sinister encounters. Large men are described as 'heavy with living' and elderly bohemians as 'having too many lines on their face to still be alive.I, the brave one, god of any telephone kiosk, walk down Dean Street, see the man of the day; raincoat, shoulders round, hair black, falling out; heavenly blue eyes cast down into his own. For a few moments we gaze at the world in silent peace, then begin to kiss as he starts to lubricate himself.

The style and setting reminded me a lot of The Lonely Londoners - just a snapshot of a bit of life that is so different yet so much the same. This novel is a record of the queer bohemian, underground world at the time in which Hyatt was writing in, and which Hyatt himself circulated in and out of. Read more about the condition New: A new, unread, unused book in perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages.But there's also a sadness to this as he's feeling so estranged from life: “I think I live without knowing myself and I laugh at the world to kill my pain. Ron is dancing with another young boy who has hair down to his shoulders, swept back from his face like a beautiful Comanche. I haven’t got that kind of energy, and walking down the road stop at a theatre where the words tragic hands are written up in large black letters and who’s who in it. But beneath that it is a treatise on dissatisfaction, although not with anything in particular; rather, it is a one man’s inner struggle to find purpose, if you like, but it is also a man’s – sometimes guilty – sense that nothing could make him happy and that even if it could, he does not deserve it. Hyatt delivers these episodes with a curious, simmering, even-handed control, where a certain eroticism is present but shrouded in poetry, writing as he was at a time when his desires were forbidden.

Why has instinct made today an eye-opener, my mind issuing facts through my body with the result that I obtain no satisfaction? At times, love Leda is not an easy read, with no chapter structure and long paragraphs which blur into an unevenly paced timeline.

He gets up and sits down in the corner facing me; the kind of man that imagining he might have a mild touch of VD, goes and tells some sympathetic girl friend for the sake of being with it.

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