Dare Me! The Life and Work of Gerald Glaskin
By John Burbidge
I remember clearly the cover of ‘No end to the Way’ (very attractive for its time) and may have even once owned a copy (burn in hell, if you borrowed it and didn’t return it). However, I have no clear recollection of the storyline and certainly no awareness of Glaskin himself as the book was written under a potentially wickedly witty pseudonym. That points to the problem I found with this book. How could I be so ignorant of him and his extensive opus?
As I read this work, I initially thought it might belong to the PhD transmogrified genre but I think this is not the case. Burbidge has a background in journeyman writing as shown on his ‘wordswallah’ (interesting word choice) website.
‘As a writer, I pay particular attention to:
Organizing material in a clear, logical manner
Doing thorough research to ensure accuracy and authenticity
Maintaining balance between the big picture and the details
Saying what matters with fewer words
Revising and rewriting text until it sparkles’
To be frank, I think most of the above shines through except ‘sparkles’. Frankly it doesn’t happen for me. The other key problem lies in the organisation of the text which is heavily thematic. Given that we are reading a biography, this always raises the problem of repetition when incidents or life stages are relevant to more than one theme. Unfortunately, I found the repetition quite intrusive at times.
The final problem lies in the subject matter, Glaskin himself. He seems to be a man well-endowed (no joke) with considerable good looks, intellect and gracious social skills. Unfortunately, he also appears to have been cursed with not inconsiderable attitudinal problems that could liken him to an explosive device awaiting detonation – the kind of person you might invite to a party and then worry that something (anything) just might set him off.
There was interesting material concerning his youth and early adult years with which I identified strongly – there seems to be a dearth of material that describes these years from the point of view of young gay and lesbian people growing up at that time. There are continuing references to West Australian isolation but I found these less relevant as time moved on – after all, the same thing could be said for more rural dwelling persons in the eastern states at the same time.
There remains the question of why such a prolific producer had so relatively little success and I cannot answer this question as I have read none of his other work. However, I can only conclude that it was a case of an inbuilt imbalance as Burbidge quotes from Robert Dessaix of ‘‘the master of both charm and vitriol’’.
As a life trajectory, I found the exposition to be vaguely similar to Donald Friend with no shortage of exoticism and a similar concern for financial viability. However, I would judge Friend as being far a more naturally blessed talent.
It is clear that Glaskin was a major trail-blazer in a number of aspects of gay fiction and other aspects of human behaviour that needed more sensitive and open treatment ranging from racial considerations to variant sexuality. It is a pity that he seems to have escaped clear consideration until now. Burbidge has given him this opportunity. It now remains for historical judgement.