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A Boy's Own Story: A Novel, Book 1
“An extraordinary novel” about growing up gay in the 1950s American Midwest (The New York Times Book Review).
Critically lauded upon its initial publication in 1982 for its pioneering depiction of homosexuality, A Boy’s Own Story is a moving tale about coming-of-age in midcentury America.
With searing clarity and unabashed wit, Edmund White’s unnamed protagonist yearns for what he knows to be shameful. He navigates an uneasy relationship with his father, confounds first loves, and faces disdain from his peers at school. In the embrace of another, he discovers the sincere and clumsy pleasures of adolescent sexuality. But for boys in the 1950s, these desires were unthinkable. Looking back on his experiences, the narrator notes, “I see now that what I wanted was to be loved by men and to love them back but not to be a homosexual.”
From a winner of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, this trailblazing autobiographical story of one boy’s youth is a moving, tender, and heartbreaking portrait of what it means to grow up.
The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris
A flaneur is a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles through city streets in search of adventure and fulfillment. Edmund White, who lived in Paris for sixteen years, wanders through the streets and avenues and along the quays, into parts of Paris virtually unknown to visitors and indeed to many Parisians. In the hands of the learned White, a walk through Paris is both a tour of its lush, sometimes prurient history, and an evocation of the city's spirit.
The Flaneur leads us to bookshops and boutiques, monuments and palaces, giving us a glimpse the inner human drama. Along the way we learn everything from the latest debates among French lawmakers to the juicy details of Colette's life.
Originally published as part of Bloomsbury's Writer and the City series, this book has sold consistently over the years, and will find a whole new audience in paperback.
Our Young Man
Our Young Man follows the life of a gorgeous Frenchman, Guy, as he goes from the industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand to the top of the modeling profession in New York City's fashion world, becoming the darling of Fire Island's gay community. Like Wilde's Dorian Grey, Guy never seems to age; at thirty-five he is still modeling, still enjoying lavish gifts from older men who believe he's twenty-three--though their attentions always come at a price. Ambivalently, Guy lets them believe, driven especially by the memory of growing up poor, until he finds he needs the lie to secure not only wealth, but love itself. Surveying the full spectrum of gay amorous life through the disco era and into the age of AIDS, Edmund White (who worked at Vogue for ten years) explores the power of physical beauty--to fascinate, to enslave, and to deceive--with sparkling wit and pathos.
The Married Man: A Novel
In Edmund White's most moving novel yet, an American living in Paris finds his life transformed by an unexpected love affair.
Austin Smith is pushing fifty, loveless and drifting, until one day he meets Julien, a much younger, married Frenchman. In the beginning, the lovers' only impediments are the comic clashes of culture, age, and temperament. Before long, however, the past begins to catch up with them. In a desperate quest to save health and happiness, they move from Venice to Key West, from Montreal in the snow to Providence in the rain. But it is amid the bleak, baking sands of the Sahara that their love is pushed to its ultimate crisis.
The Beautiful Room Is Empty: A Novel
When the narrator of White's poised yet scalding autobiographical novel first embarks on his sexual odyssey, it is the 1950s, and America is "a big gray country of families on drowsy holiday." That country has no room for a scholarly teenager with guilty but insatiable stirrings toward other men. Moving from a Midwestern college to the Stonewall Tavern on the night of the first gay uprising--and populated by eloquent queens, butch poseurs, and a fearfully incompetent shrink--The Beautiful Room is Empty conflates the acts of coming out and coming of age.
"With intelligence, candor, humor--and anger--White explores the most insidious aspects of oppression.... An impressive novel."--Washington Post book World
Jack Holmes and His Friend: A Novel
Many straight men and gay men are best friends, but if the phenomenon is an urban commonplace it has never been treated before as the focus of a major novel.
Jack Holmes is in love, but the man he loves never shares his bed. The other men Jack sleeps with never last long and he dallies with several women. He sees a shrink and practices extreme discretion about his gay adventures since the book begins in the 1960s, before gay liberation, and ends after the advent of AIDS in the 1980s. Jack's friend, Will Wright, comes from old stock, has aspirations to be a writer, and like Jack works on the Northern Review, a staid cultural quarterly. Will is shy and lonely-and Jack introduces him to the beautiful, brittle young woman he will marry. Over the years Will discovers his sensuality and almost destroys his marriage in doing so. Towards the end of the 1970s Jack's and Will's lives merge as they both become accomplished libertines.
Jack Holmes and his Friend deploys Edmund White's wonderful perceptions of American society to dazzling effect, as character after character is delicately and colourfully rendered and one social milieu after another glows in the reader's mind. He is a connoisseur of the nuances of personality and mood, and here unveils his very human cast in all their radical individuality. New York itself is a principle character with its old society and its bohemians rich and poor, with its sleek European immigrants and its rough-and-tumble transplanted Midwesterners. With narrative daring and a gifted sense of the rueful submerged drama of life, the novel is a beautifully sculpted exploration of sexuality and sensibility.
City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s
In the New Y ork of the 1970s, in the wake of Stonewall and in the midst of economic collapse, you might find the likes of Jasper Johns and William Burroughs at the next cocktail party, and you were as likely to be caught arguing Marx at the New York City Ballet as cruising for sex in the warehouses and parked trucks along the Hudson. This is the New York that Edmund White portrays in City Boy: a place of enormous intrigue and artistic tumult. Combining the no-holds-barred confession and yearning of A Boy's Own Story with the easy erudition and sense of place of The Flaneur, this is the story of White's years in 1970s New York, bouncing from intellectual encounters with Susan Sontag and Harold Brodkey to erotic entanglements downtown to the burgeoning gay scene of artists and writers. I t's a moving, candid, brilliant portrait of a time and place, full of encounters with famous names and cultural icons.
Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel
In a damp, old Sussex castle, American literary phenomenon Stephen Crane lies on his deathbed, wasting away from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-eight. The world-famous author has retreated to England with his wife, Cora, in part to avoid gossip about her ignominious past as the proprietress of an infamous Florida bordello, the Hotel de Dream. In the midst of gathering tragedy, Crane begins dictating what will surely be his final work: a strange and poignant novel of a boy prostitute in 1890s New York and the married man who ruins his own life to win his love.
The Farewell Symphony
Following A Boy's Own Story (now a classic of American fiction) and his richly acclaimed The Beautiful Room Is Empty, here is the eagerly awaited final volume of Edmund White's groundbreaking autobiographical trilogy.
Named for the work by Haydn in which the instrumentalists leave the stage one after another until only a single violin remains playing, this is the story of a man who has outlived most of his friends. Having reached the six-month anniversary of his lover's death, he embarks on a journey of remembrance that will recount his struggle to become a writer and his discovery of what it means to be a gay man. His witty, conversational narrative transports us from the 1960s to the near present, from starkly erotic scenes in the back rooms of New York clubs to episodes of rarefied hilarity in the salons of Paris to moments of family truth in the American Midwest. Along the way, a breathtaking variety of personal connections--and near misses--slowly builds an awareness of the transformative power of genuine friendship, of love and loss, culminating in an indelible experience with a dying man. And as the flow of memory carries us across time, space and society, one man's magnificently realized story grows to encompass an entire generation.
Sublimely funny yet elegiac, full of unsparingly trenchant social observation yet infused with wisdom and a deeply felt compassion, The Farewell Symphony is a triumph of reflection and expressive elegance. It is also a stunning and wholly original panorama of gay life over the past thirty years--the crowning achievement of one of our finest writers.
Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris
When Edmund White moved to Paris in 1983, leaving New York City in the midst of the AIDS crisis, he was forty-three years old, couldn't speak French, and only knew two people in the entire city. But in middle age, he discovered the new anxieties and pleasures of mastering a new culture. When he left fifteen years later to take a teaching position in the U.S., he was fluent enough to broadcast on French radio and TV, and in his work as a journalist, he'd made the acquaintance of everyone from Yves Saint Laurent to Catherine Deneuve to Michel Foucault. He'd also developed a close friendship with an older woman, Marie-Claude, through which he'd come to understand French life and culture in a deeper way.
The book's title evokes the Parisian landscape in the eternal mists and the half-light, the serenity of the city compared to the New York White had known (and vividly recalled in City Boy). White fell headily in love with the city and its culture: both intoxicated and intellectually stimulated. He became the definitive biographer of Jean Genet; he wrote lives of Marcel Proust and Arthur Rimbaud; and he became a recipient of the French Order of Arts and Letters. Inside a Pearl recalls those fertile years for White. It's a memoir which gossips and ruminates, and offers a brilliant examination of a city and a culture eternally imbued with an aura of enchantment.
The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading
A new memoir from acclaimed author Edmund White about his life as a reader.
Literary icon Edmund White made his name through his writing but remembers his life through the books he has read. For White, each momentous occasion came with a book to match: Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, which opened up the seemingly closed world of homosexuality while he was at boarding school in Michigan; the Ezra Pound poems adored by a lover he followed to New York; the biography of Stephen Crane that inspired one of White's novels. But it wasn't until heart surgery in 2014, when he temporarily lost his desire to read, that White realized the key role that reading played in his life: forming his tastes, shaping his memories, and amusing him through the best and worst life had to offer.
Blending memoir and literary criticism, The Unpunished Vice is a compendium of all the ways reading has shaped White's life and work. His larger-than-life presence on the literary scene lends itself to fascinating, intimate insights into the lives of some of the world's best-loved cultural figures. With characteristic wit and candor, he recalls reading Henry James to Peggy Guggenheim in her private gondola in Venice and phone calls at eight o'clock in the morning to Vladimir Nabokov--who once said that White was his favorite American writer.
Featuring writing that has appeared in the New York Review of Books and the Paris Review, among others, The Unpunished Vice is a wickedly smart and insightful account of a life in literature.
In French caracole means "prancing"; in English, "caper." Both words perfectly describe this high-spirited erotic adventure. In Caracole, White invents an entire world where country gentry languish in decaying mansions and foppish intellectuals exchange lovers and gossip in an occupied city that resembles both Paris under the Nazis and 1980s New York. To that city comes Gabriel, an awkward boy from the provinces whose social naïveté and sexual ardor make him endlessly attractive to a variety of patrons and paramours.
"A seduction through language, a masque without masks, Caracole brings back to startling life a dormant strain in serious American writing: the idea of the romantic."--Cynthia Ozick
Genet: A Biography
In this revelatory biography of Jean Genet, we have the first full-scale life of one of the great -- and controversial -- figures of twentieth-century literature. Edmund White shows us the writer in all his permutations: poet, dandy, homosexual, thief; a 'thug of genius', as Simone de Beauvoir called him.
Moving from Genet's illegitimate birth in 1910 to his foster childhood in a farming village in central France, Edmund White explores the early milieu that transformed an inherently theatrical child into a petty criminal and prodigiously original writer, whose most startling creation may have been his invention of himself. Accused of stealing and running away, Genet was sent to reform school at Mettray, where his imagination flourished under the spell of an all-male communal life and his first homosexual experiences. In the 1930s, he deserted from the army and travelled in Europe as a vagabond, prostitute and thief, always on the lam from the police and the military. In 1942, he emerged from one of several prison stays with the first of his remarkable novels, Our Lady of the Flowers. It was admired by Cocteau, who undertook to get it published and interceded with the French authorities to keep its author out of prison. White shows us how Cocteau thrust the 'marvelous, mysterious, intolerable' Genet into the heart of literary Paris, where he enjoyed a curious celebrity as great writer and petty thief, was painted by Giacometti (from whom he stole) and was canonized by Sartre in his monumental study, Saint Genet.
By 1948, Genet had produced five highly original novels. In the mid-1950s, after several years of debilitating depression, he turned to the writing of plays, of which The Balcony, The Blacks and The Screens were immediately hailed as masterpieces. Despite his ambivalence about political movements, he supported the Paris student uprising in 1968 and turned up -- as a journalist -- at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In 1970, he became a spokesman for the Black Panthers, but in his last decade he immersed himself -- politically and aesthetically -- in the Arab world, championing the struggle for a Palestinian homeland and writing his last, posthumously published book, Prisoner of Love.
Edmund White explores the perverse extremes of Genet's life and separates the facts from the mythology that Genet himself fashioned. Drawing on interviews with Genet's friends, lovers, publishers and acquaintances, and using new material from correspondence, journals, police records, psychiatric reports and other original sources, White reveals a life animated by contradictory impulses: authenticity and dissembling, fidelity and flirtation, domination and submission, honor and betrayal. Throughout, he brilliantly interprets and appraises Genet's astonishing oeuvre, reading the fiction with the focussed attention of a novelist and opening up the dense invention of the plays. His masterful and intuitive biography fully illuminates a hitherto enigmatic literary genius.
Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel
The distinguished biographer, novelist, and memoirist Edmund White brings his literary mastery to a new biography of Arthur Rimbaud. Poet and prodigy Arthur Rimbaud led a life that was startlingly short, but just as dramatically eventful and accomplished. Even today, over a century after his death in 1891, his visionary poetry has continued to influence everyone from Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan to Patti Smith. His long poem A Season in Hell (1873) and his collection Illuminations (1886) are essential to the modern canon, marked by a hallucinatory and hypnotic style that defined the Symbolist movement in poetry. Having sworn off writing at the age of twenty-one, Rimbaud drifted around the world from scheme to scheme, ultimately dying from an infection contracted while running guns in Africa. He was thirty-seven. Edmund White writes with a historian's eye for detail, driven by a genuine personal investment in his subject. White delves deep into the young poet's relationships with his family, his teachers, and his notorious affair with the more established poet Paul Verlaine. He follows the often elusive (sometimes blatant) threads of sexual taboo that haunt Rimbaud's poems (in those days, sodomy was a crime) and offers incisive interpretations of the poems, using his own artful translations to bring us closer to the mercurial poet.
Marcel Proust: A Life
If there is anyone worthy of producing an intimate biography of the enigmatic genius behind Remembrance of Things Past, it is Edmund White, himself an award- winning writer for whom Marcel Proust has long been an obsession. White introduces us not only to the recluse endlessly rewriting his one massive work through the night, but also the darling of Parisian salons, the grasper after honors, and the closeted homosexual-a subject this book is the first to explore openly. From the frothiest gossip to the deepest angst, here is a moving portrait to be treasured by anyone looking for an introduction to this literary icon.
Skinned Alive: Stories
The eight stories in this erotic and heartbreaking collection are barometers of difference. They measure the distance between an American expatriate and the Frenchman who tutors him in table manners and rough sex; the gulf between a man dying of AIDS and his uncomprehending relatives.
Our Paris: Sketches from Memory
Edmund White’s charming, funny, telling series of vignettes of the Paris neighborhood where he and his lover, French architect and illustrator Hubert Sorin, lived. In this ode to Pairs, the everyday becomes extraordinary with White’s observations accompanied by Sorin’s illustrations. With characters like Father Pierre Riches, the “kind and elegant” catholic priest whose hair had been stroked by Cavafy, to Billy Boy, the jewelry designer with 16,000 Barbies, there is delightful eccentricity to this collaboration. Written during Sorin’s decline to AIDS, Our Paris is a poignant look at the couple and the city they loved.
The Burning Library: Essays
Along with his groundbreaking essays that redefine politics, language, identity, and friendship in the light of gay experience and desire, this magisterial collection of 25 years of White's nonfiction writings includes dazzling subversive appreciations of cultural icons as diverse as Truman Capote and Cormac McCarthy, Robert Mapplethorpe and the singer formerly known as Prince. Reading tour.
Arts and Letters
A dazzling collection of profiles and interviews by the preeminent American cultural essayist of our time.
In these 39 lively essays and profiles, best-selling novelist and biographer Edmund White draws on his wide reading and his sly good humor to illuminate some of the most influential writers, artists, and cultural icons of the past century: among them, Marcel Proust, Catherine Deneuve, George Eliot, Andy Warhol, André Gide, David Geffen, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Whether he’s praising Nabokov’s sensuality, or critiquing Elton John’s walk (“as though he’s a wind-up doll that’s been overwound and sent heading for the top of the stairs”), or describing serendipitous moments in his seven-year-long research into the life of Genet, White is unfailingly observant, erudite, and entertaining.
Forgetting Elena: A Novel
Combining glittering wit, an atmosphere dense in social paranoia, and a breathtaking elegance and precision of language, White's first novel suggests a hilarious apotheosis of the comedy of manners. For, on the privileged island community where Forgetting Elena takes place, manners are everything. Or so it seems to White's excruciatingly self-conscious young narrator who desperately wants to be accepted in this world where everything from one's bathroom habits to the composition of "spontaneous" poetry is subject to rigid conventions.
Considered one of the greatest—and most influential—writers of the twentieth century, Marcel Proust was also one of its most fascinating figures. A strange, reclusive genius who often lay in bed for days at a time obsessively rewriting his masterpiece, Remembrance of Things Past, Proust was at other times a tireless socialite, attending the grandest parties and dazzling guests with his vivacity and wit. But as a boy Proust was yearning and lonely, an ambitious grasper after honors, and a miserably closeted homosexual, an aspect of his life that this book explores frankly and perceptively.
“White has a novelist’s eye for the telling detail or the remarkable phrase.”—New York Times Book Review
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