Forster and Liberace; or, The Invert's Tale
Five years ago, reading in the E. M. Forster papers in the King's College Archive Centre at Cambridge, I came across a scrap of manuscript from the late 1950s, composed when the British novelist was almost eighty. The catalogue title was "Notes on the Future of Civilisation." Even in old age Forster remained a notably public figure, commenting on nuclear proliferation, British policy toward India, post-war suburban planning, and the role of the arts in society. Until 1959 he reviewed books for the BBC magazine the Listener, where his close friend J. R. Ackerley served as literary editor. So when I opened the manuscript, I did not expect Forster's thoughts on the future of civilization to concern Liberace. But here was the American showman, described in Forster's spidery hand--Liberace an his "horrid" piano. Forster described "[f]emale teenagers" touching Liberace's clothes "as if they were the hem of the garments of Christ. Take care they don't tear you to pieces." The old man was clearly fascinated and repelled by the pianist, who first played concerts in Britain in the summer of 1956.
Moffat, Wendy. "Forster and Liberace; or, The Invert's Tale." Modernism/modernity 17, no. 3 (2010): 551-559. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/406820