The affectionate memories of a gay man—not to mention actor, playwright, and author of such novels as At the Jerusalem and Gabriel's Lament—who's clearly made his peace with a troubled past and a family that did its best to keep him in the closet. Bailey was born in 1937 suburban London to a professional maid and a road-sweeper. He was their late-in-life ``mistake,'' though his mother made it clear to him that, as with Shakespeare's bastard Edmund, ``there was good sport'' at her youngest son's making. The knowledge pleases Bailey, which is good since a backward look might otherwise prove depressing for him. He almost died of diphtheria at four, lost his remote father when he was eleven (only to learn at the funeral that the elder Bailey had another family from a failed first marriage), and was both saddled and blessed in his mother, a woman of remarkable prejudices who'd nonetheless remain a touchstone. To her, opera was ``closet music'' sung by ``squawking foreign cows,'' Shakespeare a snob, and a boy (like hers) who cried and brought his mum flowers ``not natural.'' Paul figured out quickly that he couldn't ever be ``natural'': Why else would the movie-star pictures he hoarded be of Marlon Brando instead of Marilyn Monroe? But he didn't anguish over it much, simply signed up for a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama and moved out of his pinched little world. There are no depths probed or nature-nurture insights to be found here, just a fine evocation of time and place offered by a man who knows precisely where he came from.
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