Join us as we welcome Matthew Sperling (author of Astroturf) and Andrew McMillan (author of playtime) to discuss contemporary modes of masculinity in fiction and poetry.
ASTROTURF BY MATTHEW SPERLING
Good things can happen when you do bad things
At thirty, Ned is in a rut. His girlfriend has dumped him, his job is boring and he lives in a dismal bedsit. While others around him climb the property ladder and get ahead, he seems destined to remain one of life's plodders.
Encouraged by a friend to try using steroids to bulk up his frame, Ned is pleased to discover a new vitality within himself. Physical changes are only the beginning: his mental state is clearer, he feels more confident and, most thrillingly of all, friends and lovers alike seem compelled by this new improved Ned.
Using his knowledge of the murky yet surprising online world of steroids, Ned begins to build a business and discovers that his talents can take him further than he ever thought possible. But when is new life is threatened, he finds himself doing things he never would have dared to do before.
And it all seems to be going fine…
Matthew Sperling is a lecturer in English Literature at UCL. His fiction and poetry has been published in, among others, New Statesman, 3:AM, The Junket and Best British Short Stories 2015 edited by Nicholas Royle.
PLAYTIME BY ANDREW MCMILLAN
In these intimate, sometimes painfully frank poems, Andrew McMillan takes us back to childhood and early adolescence to explore the different ways we grow into our sexual selves and our adult identities. Examining our teenage rites of passage: those dilemmas and traumas that shape us – eating disorders, masturbation, loss of virginity – the poet examines how we use bodies, both our own and other people’s, to chart our progress towards selfhood.
McMillan’s award-winning debut collection, physical, was praised for a poetry that was tight and powerful, raw and tender, and playtime expands that narrative frame and widens the gaze. Alongside poems in praise of the naivety of youth, there are those that explore the troubling intersections of violence, masculinity, class and sexuality, always taking the reader with them towards a better understanding of our own physicality. ‘isn’t this what human kind was made for’, McMillan asks in one poem, ‘telling stories learning where the skin/is most in need of touch’. These humane and vital poems are confessions, both in the spiritual and personal sense; they tell us stories that some of us, perhaps, have never found the courage to read before.
Andrew McMillan was born in South Yorkshire in 1988; his debut collection physical was the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award (2016), an Eric Gregory Award (2016) and a Northern Writers' award (2014). His second collection, playtime, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2018; it is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2018. He is senior lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at MMU and lives in Manchester.