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fumbled encounter

Discussion in 'English Only' started by prpeggy, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. prpeggy Senior Member

    Mandarin
    From "“Have you heard of Oscar Wilde?" by STEPHEN FRY:

    For a gay youth growing up in the early ’70s, a library was a way of showing I was not alone. There was an element of breathtaking possibility,even the chance of a fumbled encounter, but there was vindication too. Some of the best, finest, truest, cleverest minds that ever held a pen in their hands had been like me.

    What does "a fumbled encounter" allude to?
    Thanks for response.
     
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    He means a furtive/clumsy/unsuccessful sexual encounter, Peggy:)
     
  3. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    For encounter to mean a sexual liaison, I think of the 1945 film Brief Encounter, where a housewife furtively meets a married doctor every Thursday for a period of time. So we have been able to use 'encounter' in this way for a while!
     
  4. prpeggy Senior Member

    Mandarin
    That's what I first thought of. But then I wondered perhaps encounter meant finding by chance some authors who's works really touched his heart. Atfer all, he's talking about libraries.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  5. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    Yes, but he is using fumbled to modify it, which immediately takes us to a sexual connotation. His vocabulary for the authors is much more elevated, they offer him vindication and they are fine, true, clever.
     
  6. Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    Libraries were good places for encounters whether planned or as in this case accidental. Nowadays our public libraries are more open plan and lively, but in those days many were gloomy and silent with tall concealing bookshelves. This is especially true of the reference sections from which books can't be borrowed, so you have to study there and can spend long hours without anybody being surprised. If you had to tell anybody where you were going, you could always say "to the library" (even if you weren't). What parents could possibly object to that? At the reading desks, meaningful looks could be exchanged. Libraries were not regularly patrolled by the cops either, unlike public toilets. There were few acceptable and respectable meeting places for like - minded people to go in those days.
    Homosexual activity stopped being criminal in England and Wales only in 1967.

    Even if Stephen never had the luck of an 'encounter' he was comforted to think he was surrounded by people like himself, that is, homosexual writers, such as Oscar Wilde.

    Hermione
     
  7. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England

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