I used to listen to Wham! in secret. It was 1984 and I was nine. My school was in a white and mostly working-class village in Lancashire. I knew only one other Wham! fan and, though it’s been thirty years since we last met, he was the first person I contacted after I heard George Michael had died. He once claimed to have reached the singer on a secret number he found in a magazine and had a hilarious conversation with him. I still wonder if this might have been true. We used to listen to the albums over and over at one another’s houses, but at school we kept our adoration to ourselves. It was normal for boys to like Duran Duran. They said Wham! were ‘poofs’. George Michael was loved by older girls, teenagers, but in my class the girls hated him too (they liked Madonna). ‘He loves himself,’ they said. ‘He looks at himself in shiny floors when he’s dancing.’
A few years ago, NewSouth Books provoked controversy by issuing an edition of Huckleberry Finn with the N-word (which appears more than 200 times in the novel) altered to ‘slave’. Who would be bowdlerised next? Conrad? Kipling? No one seemed to think of P.G. Wodehouse and yet, rereading Thank You, Jeeves (1934) a few days ago, I was shocked to discover his repeated use of the N-word. After all, the world of Wooster and Jeeves is a faux-Edwardian comic idyll in which near everyone is a splendid fellow or a thoroughly decent chap, and anyone who isn’t receives his comeuppance.