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The Beautiful Room Is Empty

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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 ...
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1989 Mass Market Paperback Good Mass Market Paperback-

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The Beautiful Room Is Empty: A Novel

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Overview

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

Moving with sinuous ease from a claustrophobic Midwestern college town in the 1950s to Greenwich Village on the night of the Stonewall rebellion, Edmund White's poised yet scalding autobiographical novel is a portrait of the artist as a young gay man finding his way within a country that has no room for sexual dissidents.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This sequel to A Boy's Own Story is a satisfying successor to that acclaimed 1982 novel, taking the narrator through the 1950s and '60s as he matures as a gay man at the University of Michigan and later in New York. Some of White's previous fiction (Forgetting Elena, Caracole) has been considered opaque and inaccessible, but his discursive stylea modified stream of consciousness that leans luxuriantly and effectively on metaphor and simileaptly suits A Boy's Own Story and this novel, both books of memory, never too tightly plotted, but always revelatory of character and milieu as a wise narrator dissects his past and the web of his relationships with family, lovers and friends. Life in the novel is life as it is remembered, and the two novels form the lyrical but politically pointed fictional autobiography of a homosexual recalling his youth (in A Boy's Own Story) and, in this novel, the last years of psychological self-oppression and the first sweet years of liberation. White's gift for dialogue and anecdote and the melancholy elegance of his prose (often at odds with the spiteful tone the narrator takes) persuade the reader to suspend judgment as the author suspends time, to move with the narrator back and forth between past and deeper past, to delve deeper inside the soul of a man whose spiritual and sexual odysseys chart the development and joyfully confirm the existence of the elusive notion of ``gay sensibility.'' (March)
Library Journal
White, generally recognized as one of the most influential of modern gay authors, continues the coming-of-age tale begun in a Boy's Own Story ( LJ 9/1/82). He follows our nameless hero from his final year at prep school in the mid-1950s through his cruisy but self-deprecating college years to the ``turning point'' in his lifethe famous Stonewall uprising of 1969 in which the clients of a New York gay bar stood up to the policemen trying to close it down. What emerges is the picture of a young man desperately struggling to come to terms with himself, a struggle that is a universal even if the context for every individual is different. Artfully constructed, this work clearly transcends its ``gay'' theme. Explicit at times, it remains highly recommended. David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fl.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345351517
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/13/1989
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 208

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

4 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2002

    Can a novel also be a lyric? It can when White is writing it...

    It is hard to say enough good things about this novel of education. Phrases have stuck with me throughout the years like scars that have become skin: 'I was neither as warm as people believed nor as cold as I feared,' is just one. The novel is a paper sailboat that carried me, a heterosexual female reader, into the realm of gay desire.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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