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...

See more details below
$19.51 price
(Save 24%)$26.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (23) from $9.75   
  • New (17) from $14.46   
  • Used (6) from $9.75   
Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price
(Save 38%)$17.99 List Price


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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Jay Parini
…White is wonderfully tender about his lovers, whom he treats with uniform respect, even melancholy. Indeed, a sadness infuses his story…This narrative unfolds, for all its frenetic pleasure-seeking, in the shadow of AIDS…[a] beautifully written memoir.
Publishers Weekly
In this third memoir, acclaimed novelist, essayist, and biographer White (A Boy’s Own Story) reflects on his sexual conquests, his self-discoveries, and his observations about the differences between the French and Americans in the city of Proust, Genet, and Foucault. White arrives in Paris in the summer of 1983, takes up residence in the apartment of an N.Y.U. professor who sometimes also used it, and stays there for the next 15 years. In what becomes a tedious memoir, he chronicles his one-night stands (“What men like about anonymity is that it allows free rein to any fantasy whatsoever”) and his longer-term relationships (Hubert “loved me, and since I already thought I was impossibly old for the gay life, I felt grateful and happy,” he writes, adding, “Gratitude is my chief erotic emotion”). In flat prose, White recalls his acquaintances and friendships with Ned Rorem, Michel Foucault, and his longtime companion, Marie-Claude. He admits that during his sojourn in the City of Light, his “sex life had come down from the paradise of promiscuity it had been in the 1970s.” White does provide insightful glimpses of Paris in the late 20th century and relays his own ambivalence toward the city after all these years. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
A memoir that engages on a number of levels, as a pivotal literary figure recounts his productive Parisian years. When White (Jack Holmes and His Friend, 2012, etc.) began his 16-year Parisian residence in 1983, he was flush from the success of both his breakthrough novel, A Boy's Own Story (1982), and a Guggenheim fellowship, and he was well on his way to establishing himself as the pre-eminent gay American writer of the era. "A Boy's Own Story was presented to the world as a novel rather than as a memoir, but not out of a sense of discretion or modesty," he writes. "It was just that back then only people who were already famous wrote their memoirs." He continued to publish autobiographical novels but extended his literary reach to encompass biography and memoir (this is his third). The anecdotes and observations of the writer as social butterfly sustain plenty of interest, whether he's overhearing Tina Turner tell Julian Barnes how much she loves his novels or describing being in the "historic, if tedious, company" of heiress and art patron Peggy Guggenheim. Some revelations are considerably more shocking, such as the story about the French actor and American writer who had sex "in an oven at Dachau while they were both tripping." However, the broader cultural context elevates the memoir above gossip, as he writes of the onslaught of AIDS, then considered an American curiosity from which one could find refuge in Europe, and of the different attitudes and temperaments of the French, British and Americans. He ruminates on growing older and corpulent in a culture that prizes fitness and youth and of losing so many lovers and others to the scourge of AIDS. He also writes of his development as a literary stylist, one who "became simpler and more direct because of living in two languages." Some of White's observations on rape, feminism and promiscuity continue to shock, but the writer refuses to sentimentalize or pull punches, even (or especially) when the subject is himself.
From the Publisher
"[A] beautifully written memoir. . . Inside a Pearl refers not only to Paris, with its mists and mysteries. This pearl is somehow a kind of snow globe as well, a transparent sphere that encloses a miniature world. White shakes this luminous object. Snow shimmers everywhere. And then the snow settles." New York Times Book Review


"Stealthily affecting . . . With a feather dipped in acid, White recounts his off-page encounters with a glittering 1980s beau monde . . . Characteristically vivid when it comes to eros White is just as unsparing when the pleasure-seeking gives way to the loss (including the death of his lover, Hubert, of AIDS), and to his own increasing sense of vulnerability and mortality." The Washington Post


"This rumination on his beau monde cohorts finds the writer acclimating to a slightly more sober lifestyle, but the memories of high-profile artists, fashion designers, actors and socialites are loose-lipped, uproarious tales of the louche and famous." T, the New York Times Style Magazine


"What is fascinating about Inside a Pearl [is] its game effort at self-examination and its commitment to warts-and-all sharing about sexual aging, social arrivism, and the brutal sadness caused by AIDS . . . His portrait of Marie-Claude de Brunhoff . . . is one of the most affecting depictions of the contours of friendship between a gay man and a straight woman in recent literature. Bookforum


"A memoir that engages on a number of levels, as a pivotal literary figure recounts his production Parisian years." Kirkus Reviews


"White is renowned for the purity of his style and for his frank depictions of sex, and he is in peak form here . . . He is wise in his portrayal of the French." Booklist


"Edmund White is the preeminent gay man of letters of our time . . . Revelations come wrapped in revelations . . . The book is a joy ride from first to last." Bay Area Reporter


"A glittering, delicious, tender, and funny memoir about his fifteen years in Paris." Nashville Scene

Library Journal
As a major destination for artists and writers over the years, Paris never ceases to capture the imagination. White (Princeton Univ.; A Boy's Own Story; Genet: A Biography; Marcel Proust: A Life) follows in this vein, presenting the City of Light as a serene haven in sharp contrast to the bustling New York City, where he previously resided. In Paris, he managed to learn the French language as well as master the culture with the help of his friend Marie-Claude de Brunhoff, the one person constant in his peripatetic social life. Leaving New York in 1983 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, White recounts the sad stories of his many gay friends and lovers claimed by the disease. VERDICT This book succeeds as a gossipy and enlightening account of living as a gay man among the French intelligentsia, although it is marred by excessive celebrity name dropping. White's skillful writing rescues the book from being just another account of an American in Paris. Of particular interest is the penetrating look at how the French view themselves as the cultural elite of the world. Recommended for memoir enthusiasts and lovers of Paris. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/13.]—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608195824
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 102,366
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Edmund White is the author of two previous memoirs, My Lives and City Boy, and a previous book on Paris, The Flâneur. His many novels include the autobiographical A Boy’s Own Story and, most recently, Jack Holmes & His Friend. He is also known as a literary biographer and essayist. White lives in New York and teaches at Princeton University.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)