Review: Life’s a Drag by Janie Millman
‘I adore his furry sack.’ ‘She’s talking about his sporran.’
Happy days. Janie Millman’s Life’s A Drag is a real treat. Dead easy, dead funny, dead daft. Boozing Suffolk villagers don their wigs, heels, lashes and feathers to produce the performance of a lifetime, and all in a world famous venue… the village hall. They’re slapping each other’s arses and getting a dog. And by the way, whose round is it? Everyone is too pissed, local and in love to care.
Millman’s novel is a gentle romp through every type of fond-heartedness. Frank is ‘lurking in the kitchen on the pretext of overseeing the roast potatoes’, dealing with the crush he’s developed on his mate’s wife, Roz. Roz keeps winking at him, but adores Jamie. Leon’s got a black eye from Hannah and is inexplicably wearing a Hawaiian shirt on a Monday. Landlord George has spiked his pub’s magic hangover cure with weed, so Jamie’s feeling ‘totally content and in tune with nature’. And there isn’t a Daily Mail in sight. What’s that? You don’t know these characters? Irrelevant. You’re in their world now, so you’re part of their family. If only real life was like this.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, The Honey Bees drag club is showing everyone how it’s done. Titty, yes Titty, necks cappuccinos with her past hanging over her, awaiting some miraculous twist in the plot. Cherry is reinventing herself – she’s getting too haggard for her Dorothy act. Babette is being Babette. Mama Teresa is ‘all that a lady should be. She was kind, gentle, refined and modest, and the fact that she was actually a “he” seemed irrelevant.’ (Yes, it’s still gender binary in breaking down gender boundaries. Even in drag, there’s no radical queer here). But it’s a feel good read that imagines unlikely human connections amidst a world of twee conventionality, crappy one-upmanship and bullshit local politics. Amen for that.
Life’s A Drag is escapism at its best. Every church hall should have a big, sparkly, loved up, queer up sensation. But then, having felt like the only gay in the village, I would say that wouldn’t I.
– The Akond of Swat
Accent Press, RRP £7.99, 394pp