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City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s

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"When Edmund White left the Midwest after college he had an opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. at Harvard. Instead, he followed a lover to New York City. Bristling with wit and energy. City Boy chronicles the remarkable life he made for himself in the 1960s and '70s, in a city economically devastated but incandescent with art and ideas." "White arrives in New York broke and unknown, struggling to express himself as a gay man even as he holds out hope of being "cured." Present at the Stonewall uprising in 1969, White witnesses the start of the gay

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City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s

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"When Edmund White left the Midwest after college he had an opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. at Harvard. Instead, he followed a lover to New York City. Bristling with wit and energy. City Boy chronicles the remarkable life he made for himself in the 1960s and '70s, in a city economically devastated but incandescent with art and ideas." "White arrives in New York broke and unknown, struggling to express himself as a gay man even as he holds out hope of being "cured." Present at the Stonewall uprising in 1969, White witnesses the start of the gay movement and gradually begins to embrace his identity. And after a first meeting with James Merrill, to whom he nervously reads aloud from his unpublished novel, White encounters icons from Elizabeth Bishop to William Burroughs, Susan Sontag to Jasper Johns. Absorbing and filtering these heady influences, White finds his own unique artistic voice just as the city's high culture explodes in creativity. Within a decade of his first publication, White writes A Boy's Own Story, the autobiographical novel that will make him the most celebrated gay writer in the world." Recalling life in a more sordid Manhattan, in an era of transformation, White records his ambitions and desires, remembers lovers and literary heroes. and displays the wit, candor, and generosity that have defined his unique voice over the decades.

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Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
…an open-throttled tour of New York City during the bad old days of the 1960s and early '70s: crime, graffiti, garbage in the streets, Steppenwolf and Foghat leaking out of car tape decks, gay men wearing whistles around their necks to summon help when ambushed by gangs. These bad old days morphed into a star-spangled gay coming of age in the decade after Stonewall…City Boy may lack some of the fineness and intensity of My Lives, which remains the essential Edmund White memoir, the one to read first. But this one is salty and buttery, for sure.
—The New York Times
Stacey D'Erasmo
White is as amusing and raucous as ever, but he also lets the mask slip. The prose tends toward the straightforward; sex is mentioned but rarely described in detail; and if White is sometimes slightly cranky about, say, the state of literature today or certain eminent artistic closet cases…he is also more openly tender and affectionate. His losses and struggles, as a consequence, seem less sculpted, but more real…City Boy, plain-spoken and knowing, is a survivor's tale, a missive…this is who we were, this is how it was, this was our city. Some stories don't need to be embellished to glow.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Novelist and critic White (A Boy's Own Story; The Joy of Gay Sex) weaves erotic encounters and long-ago literati into a vast tapestry of Manhattan memories. He arrived from the Midwest in 1962, worked at Time-Life Books, haunted the Gotham Book Mart and went street cruising: “We had to seek out most of our men on the hoof.” In 1970, he quit his job to live in Rome, returning to find “sexual abundance” in New York. An editor with Saturday Review and Horizon, White knew artists, writers and poets, yet his own writing remained at the starting gate. He fictionalized Fire Island rituals for his first novel, Forgetting Elena (1971), which took years to find a publisher and then sold only 600 copies. Nabokov later labeled it “a marvelous book,” ranking White along with Updike and Robbe-Grillet. His second novel, about hetero/homosexual friendships, was never published, yet he “longed for literary celebrity.” How he overcame setbacks and confronted his insecurities to eventually write 23 books makes for fascinating reading. Along the way, he notes how Fun City became Fear City with the AIDS crisis, and he recalls meeting everyone from Borges, Burroughs and Capote to Peggy Guggenheim, John Ashbery, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jasper Johns. White writes with a simple, fluid style, and beneath his patina of pain, a refreshing honesty emerges. This is a brilliant recreation of an era, rich in revels, revolutions and “leather boys leading the human tidal wave.” (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
From renowned novelist and essayist White (Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel, 2008, etc.), a graceful memoir of a decidedly ungraceful time in the life of New York City. "In the 1970s in New York," writes the author, "everyone slept till noon." Also, "everyone smoked all the time, and when you French-kissed someone, it was like rubbing one ashtray against another." The era was one of aspiration and poverty, of a time before New York had "become enslaved by wealth and glitz," when "people still embraced Ezra Pound's motto ‘Beauty is difficult.' " There is much difficult beauty-and much French kissing-in these pages, which recount White's arrival to the city in 1962 as a transplanted Texan by way of Ann Arbor and his eventual assimilation. His arrival coincided with a slight but noticeable uptick in the general awareness that there were such a thing as gay people. White lived openly with a young man, but he still knotted his narrow tie carefully and went to work as one of the great silent majority. A "living contradiction," he reveled in gay weekends while roiling in self-hatred and seeing a psychotherapist in the hope of turning straight and getting married. The cure didn't take, and White's self-awareness grew with times that included the rise of the so-called Pink Panthers and the Stonewall Riots. Those were times of danger. As White recounts, wary Manhattanites negotiated the city block by block, shunning, say, 85th Street in favor of one on either side of it and generally keeping doors bolted and windows gated. But they were also times of liberating art, with White enjoying the company of intellectuals and writers-including Richard Howard ("Every moment with him had a sense ofoccasion"), Richard Sennett ("an odd combination of schoolboy nerd, flamboyant queen, and Mrs. Astor") and Simon Karlinsky-while publishing his first books and gaining recognition in the literary world. Full of small provocations-among them, "I sometimes regret the invention of the category ‘gay' "-this is a welcome portrait of a time and place long past, and much yearned for. New York City appearances. Agent: Amanda Urban/ICM
From the Publisher
“[A] moving chronicle…that peacock’s tail, those stag’s antlers—they’re here, to be sure, but so are vulnerability, doubt, failure and long years toiling at the sort of cruddy day jobs that most literary writers know all too well…In City Boy, White is amusing and raucous as ever but he also lets the mask slip…his losses and struggles, as consequence, seems less sculpted, but more real….City Boy, plain-spoken and knowing, is a survivor’s tale, a missive from one of those antlered boys of that era to the others who are gone: this is who we were, this is how it was, this was our city. Some stories don’t need to be embellished to glow.”—New York Times Book Review

City Boy is Mr. White's second memoir in three years, and a great deal of his fiction (notably the novel ''A Boy's Own Story'') has been autobiographical. You get the sense of a writer slowly peeling his life like an artichoke, letting only a few stray leaves go at a time…this one is salty and buttery, for sure. Mr. White's ''Oh, come on, guys'' meekness has vanished into thin air.”—New York Times

“Novelist and critic White weaves erotic encounters and long-ago literati into a vast tapestry of Manhattan memories… How he overcame setbacks and confronted his insecurities to eventually write 23 books makes for fascinating reading…White writes with a simple, fluid style, and beneath his patina of pain, a refreshing honesty emerges. This is a brilliant recreation of an era, rich in revels, revolutions and ‘leather boys leading the human tidal wave.’”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A colorfully detailed remembrance…with his novelist’s brilliance in turns of phrase in evoking these places, [White] also recalls the many celebrated writers he encountered over the years in his slow climb to writerly success. A special invitation to a world gone by.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A graceful memoir of a decidedly ungraceful time in the life of New York City…. A welcome portrait of a time and place long past, and much yearned for.”—Kirkus

“[White] retained a keen appreciation for the varieties of affection, which is gracefully displayed here. Lively sketches of James Merrill, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others are occasionally sharp as well as fond, but White’s candor extends equally to his own doubts and failures.”—New Yorker

“So witty, so insightful, so bristling with gossip, that one almost fails to notice that it is an essential chronicle of a revolution in many ways no less important than the fall of Communism: the gay liberation movement, in which White was both an actor and a privileged spectator…In one of his many discourses on friends famous — Jasper Johns, Peggy Guggenheim, James Merrill — and otherwise, White described a now-forgotten novelist's book as lacking "that key, embarrassing literary quality no one knows how to discuss: charm." City Boy is full of it, even when discussing weighty topics.”—Harpers

“The oral histories of Edmund White—who relives his decades-old glory days as a hobbing, nobbing City Boy.”—Vanity Fair


“As someone who lived through the period and knew most of the people Ed White writes about, I was delighted to read his new book, City Boy. The charm and candor of his work has never been more apparent. I finished City Boy wanting still more—which is a rare reading experience.”—Martin Duberman, author of Waiting to Land

“Since White is a born raconteur, his gimlet-eyed anecdotes about celebrities of the era are as tangy as blood orange sorbet served after lobster Thermidor… [he] matches his talent for journalism with brilliant imagistic prose.”—Gay City News

“In his 23 books, novelist and literary critic White has become one of the premier chroniclers of New York City intellectual life and the gay world…White unabashedly turns the pen on himself and the dozens of writers and artists he met in his years coming of age as a gay man in New York.”—NY Post

“Edmund White's writing of the past quarter-century adds up to a story of inner life repressed and then bursting forth into full expressive flower, as well as a neat encapsulation of the history of gay subculture…He's eloquent on the horrific psychic cost of closeted gay identity, pre-Stonewall.”—WashingtonPost

“[White] is a more highbrow Augusten Burroughs; a more sedate and scholarly David Sedaris…[City Boy] is an exquisitely written, devilishly detailed account of White's life in the City.”—Huffington Post

“[An] exuberant, thoughtful memoir… White's affectionate yet candid portraits of literary celebrities Richard Howard, Harold Brodkey and Susan Sontag celebrate those friendships, with the eminences coming across as quite distinct from their forbidding pubic personas, even lovable…Sparkling cameo appearances by the likes of Truman Capote, Robert Mapplethorpe and Fran Lebowitz expand the feeling that artistic Manhattan then was a very different place than it is today. All fun aside, the gadabout boulevardier at some point had to take a back seat to the fiercely ambitious emerging writer. White's vivid analysis of his artistic struggles and literary progress during these years is like a master class for other writers…. White's memoir…has charm to burn.”—Shelf Awareness

“Decades before Times Square looked like a trailer park filled with tourists in lawn chairs and real estate prices hit the stratosphere, New York was seedy and dangerous. But for a young gay man from the Midwest, it was also a refuge, full of possibility and excitement, where strangers became lovers with one furtive glance, as Edmund White evokes in his fascinating historical memoir City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s…like his novels, the portrait he paints is unflinching.”—Modern Tonic

“CITY BOY is an amazing memoir of White’s hunger for literary fame — for publication even — and intellectual esteem in the superheated creative world of ’60s and ’70s New York. His sketches of writers and artists, including everyone from poets James Merrill and John Ashbery to artist Robert Wilson and editor Robert Gottlieb, are full of bon mots, sharply observed details, and great honesty about his own desires for love and esteem. CITY BOY vividly brings to life the sheer squalor of life in 1970s New York …A wonderful raconteur with a well-stocked fund of anecdotes and observations, White’s writings reveal much about alliances, alignments, and personalities from a vanished world that still echo strongly in our own.”—This Week in New York

“Edmund White is no one-trick pony. The prolific novelist, critic, memoirist, gay activist, professor and social aspirant has waded into countless literary and intellectual pools and sent visible ripples through each. White's latest book, a ruminative and rambling memoir of his time in New York City in the 1970s, takes readers on a dime tour through the writer's initiation into circles that spun with such blinding talents as Susan Sontag, Richard Howard, John Ashbery, Michel Foucault, even Vladimir Nabokov and Anthony Burgess. ‘City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s’ dispenses with the jaw-dropping lyricism of the books that made him famous (his beloved memoir ‘A Boy's Own Story,’ especially) and replaces it with a didactic narrative flecked with powerful bits of insight, buried like chunks of brown sugar in a big pot of literary oatmeal…’City Boy’ presents an exhilarating sketch of the grizzled, untamed and dangerous way of life that was New York in the 1960s and '70s… Surely [White] deserves a notable place in the pantheon of the artists and writers who populate his book, which serves as a testament to his talent and to the credibility he has laboriously built up in his years as a working writer…We're lucky for the pioneering work of White, his insistence on casting himself as a ‘gay’ writer, even if it continues to harm his entry into the upper echelon of global literary talents…[City Boy] offers a valuable glimpse into the mind of an indispensable writer and critic, one whose obsessions — with his city, with other artists, and especially with himself — help to demystify a fascinating moment in culture and time.”—BuffaloNews

“Instead of imagining that far-fetched, science-fiction-based ideas like time machines will ever become a reality, most of us rely on books and movies to take us to places we will either never get to visit, or missed out on entirely. The 1960s and 70s were a pivotal time for gay men, a time when homosexuals made history by redefining their role in society at large by standing up for the basic human rights we enjoy today – and then there's all that rampant, unbridled sex on the Chelsea piers. Popular gay historian, novelist, memoirist and survivor Edmund White takes us there in style in City Boy…. In his own classy, restrained, inimitable style, Edmund White presents graceful ruminations on an ungraceful time as one forgotten decade casts a long shadow on the one that followed. Simply put, this book is a gem, and if time travel were indeed a possibility, White would make the ultimate tour guide.”—Bay Area Reporter

“In his new memoir, "City Boy: My Life in New York in the 1960s and '70s" (Bloomsbury, $26), Princeton professor and novelist Edmund White vividly re-creates his 20 years as a journeyman writer in New York City, the rise of the gay liberation movement and the swirling social and literary scenes of four decades ago…[City Boy] is a chronicle of his uphill battle to get published and the explosion of the gay world in Manhattan that became so important to his writing. From the furtive male coupling of the early 1960s to the Stonewall riots and the euphoric pre-AIDS gay world of 1970s Greenwich Village, White provides a rollicking chronicle of a lost age. Along the way, White made himself into a prominent literary novelist and an openly gay man. Finally, he draws thrilling portraits of the important literary figures of the period, from the poets James Merrill and Richard Howard to the sharp-tongued, territorial Susan Sontag and the closeted writer Harold Brodkey.”—NewarkStar Ledger

City Boy fully evokes New York’s gritty beauty. It’s a treasure trove of period detail… Because City Boy is as thronged as New York, many of these [character portraits] must be sketches. One of White’s gifts as a stylist is that, like Sargent in his watercolors, he can capture people quickly. The labor never shows, the effects are fresh, the brush strokes loose yet precise…White, through-out, never lets the shadows get too dark. His refusal to become bogged down in self recrimination seems of a piece, perhaps, with his greatest strength: an absolute rejection of the shame queer people have always been told they should feel.  Some may think he’s spent too long looking at himself. But for White the self is always social; well observed, it’s full of other lives, endlessly lush and complex. In City Boy, the stories of these lives—and White’s—are recounted with the literary quality he tells us he admires most: charm.”—Lambda Literary Review

“Any writer’s coming-of-age tale is bound to inspire would-be authors, but White’s is particularly engaging, thanks to his bracing honesty about his despair, anxiety and impoverished existence…[The] deeply personal, idiosyncratic accounts of the bold-faced names White befriends as he builds his career are by far the most absorbing parts of City Boy.”—Time Out New York

“A zesty breeze of a book depicting a broken-down, crime-ridden city where artists could actually afford to live. White's takes on its gay and literary scenes and his portraits of Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe and many others are funny, sharp and sometimes scurrilous.”—SeattleTimes

"After a series of unabashedly autobiographical novels, and a steamy 2006 memoir, My Lives, what is there left of Edmund White’s life for Edmund White to mine? Plenty, as this delicious serving of homosexual dish demonstrates...White left New York for Paris in 1983, as AIDS was starting to decimate the demimonde he embraced. This gaily elegiac memoir is an elegant love letter to that time and place."—Queer Syndicate

“If really thoughtful, layered, dish-best-eaten-cold gossip isnt New York writing, what is? White has a true sense of the city.”—Greil Marcus in Time Out New York

“Here's an X-rated, gay-hearted tour of a city of artists and writers and painters and lovers, all of them looking for happiness and love in a time when, as White points out, in some clubs every group of dancing men was required to include at least one woman. "A disco employee sat on top of a ladder and beamed a flashlight at a group of guys who weren't observing the rule." That's what White seems to be doing in this smart, gossipy roundup of all the men and ideas and good times and bad he danced with back then — beaming his light.”—Alan Cheuse on

“City Boy is a funny, gossipy scrapbook of White’s years in Manhattan…his sketches of the little communities of friendship and love amid the Manhattan ruins are marvelous and moving…City Boy is a breezy and candid and deeply entertaining memoir of the bankrupt and crime-mad Lindsay- and Beame-era New ork and the insanely creative who peopled it. More than that, it’s a self-deprecatingly Proustian account (a weird combo, to be sure) of superserious literary ambition, his own and that of others. Genette famously wrote that the narrative of In Search of Lost Time could be summed up in four words: Marcel becomes a writer. City Boy updates that précis for the sucking-in-the-‘70s New York. Ed becomes a writer.”—Critical Mass


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596914025
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 714,429
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

An esteemed novelist and cultural critic, Edmund White is the author of many books, including the autobiographical novel A Boy's Own Story; a previous memoir, My Lives; and most recently a biography of poet Arthur Rimbaud. White lives in New York City and teaches writing at Princeton University.

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Read an Excerpt

City Boy

My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s
By Edmund White


Copyright © 2009 Edmund White
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-402-5

Chapter One

In the 1970s in New York everyone slept till noon.

It was a grungy, dangerous, bankrupt city without normal services most of the time. The garbage piled up and stank during long strikes of the sanitation workers. A major blackout led to days and days of looting. We gay guys wore whistles around our necks so we could summon help from other gay men when we were attacked on the streets by gangs living in the projects between Greenwich Village and the West Side leather bars.

The upside was that the city was inexpensive, and Manhattan, especially the part of it below Fourteenth Street, was full of young actors-singers-dancers-waiters who made enough money working their restaurant shifts three nights a week to pay for their acting lessons and their cheap rents. Unlike our hometowns back in the Midwest, where the sidewalk was rolled up at six p.m., the delis and coffee shops were open all night and the bars till four in the morning. That whole army of actor-waiters saw their restaurant jobs as just another opportunity for "scene study" ("Who am I tonight? An Austrian aristocrat who's fallen on bad times? A runaway from an incestuous family in the Tennessee Hills? A Swedish gymnast?"). No matter how big their tips were, they managed todrink them away in a bar after the restaurants closed as they talked excitedly about their art and their loves. Everyone smoked all the time, and when you French-kissed someone, it was like rubbing one ashtray against another.

New York seemed either frightening or risible to the rest of the nation. To us, however, it represented the only free port on the entire continent. Only in New York could we walk hand in hand with a member of the same sex. Only in New York could we ignore a rat galloping across our path and head out for a midnight play reading. Artists on the Lower East Side were recycling the most primitive and worthless materials-junk, really.

But there was also a mandarin New York, a place where painters and choreographers and novelists and poets strove to produce serious art of the highest order. This was an elite group of people, scattered throughout the Village and the emerging neighborhood of Chelsea and the comfortable, kicked-out Upper West Side; in this mandarinate artists and intellectuals still felt connected to the supreme artists of the past, still thought that their work would be the latest installment in a quasi-divine legacy.

I had constant daydreams of meeting Susan Sontag and Paul Goodman. I don't know why I focused on them-maybe because they were so often mentioned in the Village Voice and the Partisan Review but even by Time. He'd written Growing Up Absurd, the bible of the sixties, now largely forgotten (I never read it in any event). How could I have worshipped a man whose work I didn't know? I guess because I'd heard that he was bisexual, that he was a brilliant therapist, and that he was somehow for the young and the liberated. I read his astonishing journal, Five Years, published in 1966, a groundbreaking book in which he openly discussed paying men for sex and enjoying anonymous sex in the meatpacking district. Today that would seem unremarkable, perhaps, but for a husband and a father back then to be so confiding, so shameless, was unprecedented, especially since the sex passages were mixed in with remarks on culture and poetry and a hundred other subjects.

Sontag was someone I read more faithfully, especially Against Interpretation and even individual essays as they were published.

New York, in short, in the seventies was a junkyard with serious artistic aspirations. I remember that one of our friends, the poet Brad Gooch, wanted to introduce us to his lover, who'd become an up-and-coming Hollywood director, but Brad begged him not to tell us that he worked as a director since Hollywood had such low prestige among us. That sort of reticence would be unthinkable today in a New York that has become enslaved by wealth and glitz, but back then people still embraced Ezra Pound's motto, "Beauty is difficult."

We kept asking in 1972 and 1973 when the seventies were going to begin ...

Then again we had to admit the sixties hadn't really begun until the Beatles came over to the States in 1964, but after that the decade took on a real, definite personality-protest movements, long hair, love, drugs, a euphoria that turned sour only toward the end of 1969. Of course for Leftists the decade began with the Brown v. Board of Education decision and ended with Nixon's resignation in 1974.

I suppose people hadn't really thought each decade should have its own character and be different from the others till the 1920s, although I remember in a nineteenth-century Russian novel someone remarked that a character was a typical man of the 1830s-progressive and an atheist. But at that time it seemed more a question of generations-one belonged to the generation of "superfluous men," for instance, or one was a frivolous, self-indulgent product of the Belle Époque. But certainly in the 1920s, as the idea of the modern became current, every amateur sociologist began to seek out the personality of the dawning decade.

In retrospect we could see that the 1950s had been a reactionary period in America of Eisenhower blandness, of virulent anticommunism, of the Feminine Mystique. I lived through the fifties in the Midwest when everything that was happening-the repression of homosexuality, for instance, the demonization of the Left, the giggly, soporific ordinariness of adolescence, the stone deafness to the social injustice all around us-seemed not only unobjectionable but also nonexistent. Somehow we'd all been led to think that the order of things in the fifties was "natural," eternal and unchanging. The cult books of that epoch were The Lonely Crowd and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

The great triumph of the sixties was to dramatize just how arbitrary and constructed the seeming normality of the fifties had been. We rose up from our maple-wood twin beds and fell onto the great squishy, heated water bed of the sixties.

At the end of the 1970s I wrote, "There was no style for the decade, no flair, no slogans. The mistake we made was that we were all looking for something as startling as the Beatles, acid, Pop Art, hippies and radical politics. What actually set in was a painful and unexpected working out of the terms the Sixties had so blithely tossed off."


Excerpted from City Boy by Edmund White Copyright © 2009 by Edmund White. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 3, 2010

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    I Actually Read the Book

    Reviews of books which give it five stars are not very helpful when it is clear that the "reviewer" didn't read the book. But I did read it. It's full of interesting anecdotes from New York's literary and gay history. I enjoyed it a lot. White does not shy from criticizing himself. His experiences provide a window on a scene that most of us could never have experienced.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2009

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    Edmund White's "City Boy" Promises a Hot Read

    By Frank Pizzoli
    I had the pleasure of interviewing Edmund White in his Chelsea apartment for Lambda Book Report, Summer 2007. Besides reviewing his "Chaos, A Novella and Stories," he vigorously answered questions about 1970s NYC, pre- and post-AIDS, the subject of his newest book "City Boy".

    Friendly and down to earth (he made us a pot of his favorite tea and served it himself with dried fruit), he is sleepless in his enthusism for his many projects. I felt immediately comfortable in his living room and I'm sure readers, whether from the 1970s era or younger, will feel that same accessibilty. Edmund White Interview available upon request from

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2010

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    A Commentary on a Period Becomes a Novel

    For openers to readers who opt to add another book by Edmund White to their library comes this quotation from John Irving: 'Edmund White, a master of the erotic confession, is our most accomplished triathlete of prose - a novelist, biographer, and memoirist. Truly, no other American writer of my generation manages to be all three with such personal passion and veracity.' Strong praise from one of the country's finest writers, but in this reader's opinion, well earned. CITY BOY contains every aspect of what we have grown to expect - and yet be consistently surprised at his constancy - from White. His novels - 'A Boy's Own Story', 'The Farewell Symphony', 'The Beautiful Room is Empty', 'The Married Man', 'Hotel de Dream' etc - his well researched, highly regarded biographies - 'Genet', 'Marcel Proust', 'Rimbaud', etc - and his essays and thoughtful meanderings - 'The Darker Proof', 'The Flâneur', 'My Lives', etc - are always delivered with some of the most elegant prose being written today. And the same goes of CITY BOY.

    Edmund White shares life in that pointedly transitional period of the 1960s and 1970s, a time when the country and especially New York City grappled with the unpopular war in Vietnam and the equally unpopular rise of the gay liberation movement. White was present for Stonewall and relates the atmosphere of the streets and the population both before and after. And as if this weren't enough history to essay he adds the changes that were happening in the fields of the arts and of literature. Using a bit of reality as a clever way to focus on the transformation of New York, White shares his experiences with his travels abroad to Italy: his commentary on the rich and famous of Venice, especially the strange creature that was Peggy Guggenheim, is peppered with incidents and alterations of the influences of world events on the people who chronicled them. As part of this memoirization of the times he includes his own frustrations of having his first novel published and the subsequent growth in stature as a writer that he enjoyed.

    New York changed during this time, for better and for worse, and at the end of the book Edmund White touches on the plague of AIDS that would once again metamorphose the his city and his world. White's gift is to find the balance between sharing information, relate rollicking tales, and find both sides of the masks of comedy and tragedy and present the entire picture for the audience's musing. He is a classy writer, one that never lets the reader down.

    Grady Harp

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