The Antique Collector

Glyn Hughes, Author Simon & Schuster $19.5 (288p) ISBN 978-0-671-72344-6
Shortlisted for the 1990 Whitbread Award, this artful novel features the not-so-sentimental education of a drag queen in turn-of-the-century England. From a garish gypsy caravan, 39-year-old Jack Shuttleworth (aka Camellia Snow) recounts his extraordinary experiences as ``a male with a female trapped inside me.'' Addressed to a deceased admirer (one of Jack/Camellia's ``collection'') and rendered in chatty but eloquent prose, this fictional memoir traces the sexually ambiguous narrator's early years as an effeminate workhouse orphan to his life on stage, where his penchant for female dress and makeup is accepted under the guise of art. Despite his taste for artifice, Jack/Camellia harbors no illusions about himself or about English society. As an outsider, he is a clear-eyed observer of an era; with comic flair, he pulls back the curtain on hypocrisy and the arbitrary nature of gender roles. Though Jack/Camellia's performance grows tiresome, Hughes's American debut brings a poignant wit and originality to the notion that all the world's a stage. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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