Vikram Seth, The Golden Gate (1986, Vintage International 1991)
A virus had me sick in bed,
Too thick of head to watch TV.
I’d try to read but lose the thread.
Oh bored bored bored, Oh woe was me!
A friend* said, ‘Read The Golden Gate.’
‘Five thou, five hundred fifty-eight
Lines in iambic tetrameter –
No way! That’s not one for the amateur
And drowsy reader.’oooo ‘Have a go!
Just take one sonnet at a time.
They zip along and even rhyme.’
I read, coughed, slept, read, slept, went slow.
My friend was wise, the book’s a joy,
Seven years before A Suitable Boy.
The year is roughly 1980,
AIDS a whisper, Soviet bloc’s
Intact. A yuppie seeks a mate, he
Finds love through a PO box.
San Francisco, sexy, witty,
Like Maupin’s first Tales of the City.
John loves Liz and Phil loves Ed,
Though Ed loves Jesus more than bed.
Jan (sculptor) holds a torch for John.
An anti-nuclear demonstration
Includes a powerful oration.
The pleasure here was so full on
I’d like to read, though there’s no hurry,
Fredy Neptune by Les Murray.
* The ‘friend’ was Jo Walton, a writer and avid reader of, and blogger about, fantasy whom I’ve never met. She enthused persuasively about the The Golden Gate earlier this year on the tor.com blog. A copy turned up on BookMooch almost instantaneously.