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Strange Relations

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399713214

Price: £20

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‘Remarkable… entertaining… deft… moving… refreshing’
Daily Telegraph

‘Textured literary portraits of the masculine mind and body’
Raymond Antrobus, author of The Perseverance

‘Impeccably well researched and hugely enjoyable’
Nicole Flattery, author of Nothing Special

In October 1960, James Baldwin and John Cheever spoke on a panel together at San Francisco State College. The troubled state of American society was under discussion, which Baldwin incisively diagnosed as a ‘failure of the masculine sensibility’.

Strange Relations explores this crisis in mid-century masculinity and the lives and works of four bisexual writers who fought to express and embody alternate possibilities. Building on Walt Whitman’s philosophy of the love between men, Ralf Webb considers the ways in which Tennessee Williams and Carson McCullers, as well as Cheever and Baldwin, resisted in their art, as well as in their relationships, the damaging expectations of contemporary gender and sexuality.

With a curious, intelligent and sensitive gaze, Ralf Webb sheds new light on each writer. Together, these artists offer a powerful and moving argument for a transformative new masculinity, grounded in fluidity, love and intimacy.

‘Webb’s writing is of a quality rarely seen, and his book returns you to the world slightly changed, equipped with another angle of vision on the quiddity of man’
Diarmuid Hester, author of Nothing Ever Just Disappears

‘Wise, hopeful, and exquisitely written’
Will Tosh, author of Straight Acting


Textured literary portraits of the masculine mind and body. Webb has skilfully blended narratives of maleness, queer desire and gender norms with mid-century American cultural critiques. If you're a fan of Judith Butler, Hilton Als, Mark Doty, you will love Webb's Strange Relations
Raymond Antrobus, author of <i>The Perseverance</i>
A compassionate, imaginative, inquisitive book about men, how American authors like Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams, and James Baldwin wrote about masculinity, and how they imagined relationships between men-and women. Webb's writing is of a quality rarely seen, and his book returns you to the world slightly changed, equipped with another angle of vision on the quiddity of man
Diarmuid Hester, author of NOTHING EVER JUST DISAPPEARS
I loved Strange Relations for its exquisite prose, its insights, its novelistic flair. There is palpable urgency to this book as it questions, reimagines and contextualises the link between sexuality, gender and identity; and between fiction and autobiography. I returned to these pages each night in awe and with the feeling that I had encountered something new and necessary and exciting
Lauren Aimee Curtis, author of <i>Strangers at the Port</i>
Ralf Webb delivers a captivating study of the writers who fought back against the repressive models of post-war masculinity, and dared to imagine a freer, queerer future. Strange Relations is wise, humane, hopeful, and exquisitely written. A moving and empowering book.
Will Tosh, author of <i>Straight Acting</i>
Strange Relations achieves the rare holy trinity for a nonfiction book: its exploration of the mutability of masculinity is rigorously researched, full of humane and original insights, and delivered in the kind of stylish and distinctive prose that could only have been written by an essayist who is also a poet.
Philippa Snow, author of <i>Trophy Lives</i>
'Ralf Webb's Strange Relations is a beguiling portrait of the singular artists who have challenged and shaped our ideas of sexuality and masculinity. Impeccably well researched and hugely enjoyable.
Nicole Flattery, author of <i>Nothing Special</i>
Remarkable . . . True poet-scholars, whose creative and critical concerns intimately connect, are rare indeed: Webb is slowly and carefully establishing an interesting niche for himself among rather distinguished company. He's a writer who can give expression to crisis and confusion, but who can also offer careful analysis and critique of the causes and consequences of our human pain . . . A thoroughly reasonable and entertaining book, with . . . convincing and moving portraits of the authors [and] clear, determined, detailed readings . . . The sheer confidence and energy of the assessments and pronouncements is refreshing
Ian Sansom, Daily Telegraph