"As a young teenager I looked desperately for things to read that might excuse me or assure me I wasn't the only one, that might confirm an identity I was unhappily piecing together."
His novel- A Boy’s Own Story (I still have my original copy, purchased in 1982, at The Different Drummer Bookstore on Capital Hill in Seattle) was the 1st important coming out story that I read, & the first to treat the story of a gay boy where the subject was not portrayed as sick or a "problem". As a young man in my 20s, I thought the novel was brazen & intimate. I was very moved. One of the most prominent & highly acclaimed figures of contemporary gay literature, Edmund White works in many genres of fiction & nonfiction.
A tale of the search for self-identity against the expectations of family & friends, White expertly mixes the cosmic & the commonplace. Here, the unnamed narrator & his friend Kevin explore the boundaries of their common masculinity:
“When he turned his face my way it was dark, indistinguishable; his back and shoulders were carving up strips of light, carving them this way and that as he twisted and bobbed. The water was dark, opaque, but it caught the sun's gold light, the wavy dragon scales writhing under a sainted knight's halo. At last Kevin swam up beside me; his submerged body looked small, boneless. He said we should go down to the store and buy some Vaseline."
I’ve always admired Edmund White’s refusal to get all PC, & he addresses gay hypocrisy & those who prudishly condemn promiscuity in the hope that this will make us more normal & palatable for straight people. White is a veteran gay-libber who first started libbing in the early 1970s in NYC bathhouses, back room bars & along the piers. Edmund White is an old style gay chauvinist, proud to be gay, obsessed with coming out, & attacking those that refuse to do so.
For those of us who first encountered the depth & scope of the gay male world via the genius of Edmund White, it is nice to see that he keeps on curning out fiction, biographies & eassys. His States of Desire was written pre-Aids, &containes some of the most graphic & moving depictions of gay male America. White feels that "gay" is a very male concept, having almost nothing to do with lesbians or transsexuals (GLBT !). I have read him, followed him, & I apprecate his place in American gay culture as pioneer & story teller.
White shares a cozy, book-lined Chelsea apartment with his life partner, 44-year-old writer Michael Carroll, but he says: "I'm a sex junkie; I believe in promiscuity. Am I a sex addict? I guess. But I'm also a prickly moralist & a weak-willed pleasure lover”. White turns 70 today.
His work so far:
• Forgetting Elena (1973)
• Nocturnes for the King of Naples (1978)
• A Boy's Own Story (1982)
• Caracole (1985)
• The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988)
• Skinned Alive: Stories (1995)
• The Farewell Symphony (1997)
• The Married Man (2000)
• Fanny: A Fiction (2003)
• Chaos: A Novella & Stories (2007)
• Hotel de Dream (2007)
• Terre Haute (2006)
• The Joy of Gay Sex, with Charles Silverstein (1977)
• States of Desire (1980)
• The Burning Library: Writings on Art, Politics and Sexuality 1969-1993 (1994)
• The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris (2000)
• Arts and Letters (2004)
• Genet: A Biography (1993)
• Marcel Proust (1998)
• Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel (2008)
• Our Paris: Sketches from Memory (1995)
• My Lives (2005)
• City Boy (2009
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