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Chaos: A Novella and Stories
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Chaos: A Novella and Stories

5.0 1
by Edmund White
 

When a respected older man clings to the values and mores of the liberated 1970s, when he pursues sex relentlessly and his reputation suffers, Chaos ensues. White explores different aspects of aging, romance, and sex, inviting his readers to come with him to Florida, the Greek Isles, and Turkey — and into the chaotic gay demimonde of contemporary New York.

Overview

When a respected older man clings to the values and mores of the liberated 1970s, when he pursues sex relentlessly and his reputation suffers, Chaos ensues. White explores different aspects of aging, romance, and sex, inviting his readers to come with him to Florida, the Greek Isles, and Turkey — and into the chaotic gay demimonde of contemporary New York.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The title novella from novelist, memoirist and biographer White (Genet, etc.) turns on the guilt that gay novelist Jack, 66, feels about not visiting his dying friend Helene in Paris, and on Jack's obsession with Seth, 28, a charmless ex-Mormon sex bomb. Not much happens in "Chaos": financially strapped Jack and Seth (a "total top") meet on Craig's List and fall into a ritual where Jack pays Seth $120 for the pleasure of sucking Seth off. (White told a nearly identical story of obsession just last year in his much praised memoir My Lives, where the episode is titled "My Master.") Of the stories, only "Record Time" shines: it records what it was like to be 13 in small-town 1953, starved for culture, reduced to listening over and over to opera recordings on ancient 78s. The narrator recalls the excitement of going alone to a distant town for a screening of Cukor's famous Camille, taking the evening train home after a rain. Here the writing is thrilling, evocative, with a magic missing elsewhere in the collection. Despite that high point, even White's fans might feel entitled to sit this one out. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

White's first collection of short fiction in over a decade is a somewhat skimpy, almost slight affair, offering one novella and three stories, but the writing is generally sophisticated and sharply observant. In the semiautobiographical mode of much of White's oeuvre, this collection presents protagonists who seem to be variations on the writer, all highly cultured and cosmopolitan gay men in their fifties or sixties. (In fact, the material notably overlaps with White's recent autobiography, My Lives, begging comparison.) The title novella is a candid portrait of a once successful writer who should be poised for comfortable retirement but whose life is instead spiraling into an anxious existence of looming financial crisis, burgeoning sex addiction, and humiliating meetings with his editor. The novella explores up-to-the-minute questions about the fate of writers (as opposed to celebrities) in our cheapskate era of free online content and dumbed-down culture. The shorts include an exquisite memory piece, "Record Time," and two stories that relate affairs with younger men, one from troubled Zimbabwe and the other from privileged Turkey. For all gay fiction collections.
—Stephen Sposato

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786720057
Publisher:
Running Press Book Publishers
Publication date:
05/28/2007
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Edmund White is the author of some twenty books, including a biography of Jean Genet, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is best known for his trilogy of autobiographical novels—A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room is Empty and The Farewell Symphony. He teaches writing at Princeton. An officer of the French order of Arts and Letters, White has written a short life of Marcel Proust. His most recent book is his memoir, My Lives. He lives in New York.

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Chaos: A Novella and Stories 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Edmund White remains one of the reigning masters of committing the English language into models of communication in his intelligent, witty, wise, and compassionate novels. While some critics and admirers tend to place CHAOS: A NOVELLA AND STORIES in a lesser important ring of his work, for this reader this book works on every level. Yes, some of the ideas on which the stories are based have been the nidus for other of his more famous works, the current work (especially CHAOS) has polished the atmosphere of the plight of the aging gay man to a jewel-like presence. Reading Edmund White is as much a pleasure of the joy of reading superb prose, as it is an entry into the fascinating lives of his created characters. In 'Chaos' we meet Jack, a man whose once successful life as a writer afforded him the luxuries of satisfying his physical needs at will. Now, his career careening down toward desperation, Jack finds his gratification in hiring men for sex. His 'employees' include a strangely assembled ex-Mormon lad named Seth and an Italian club dancer Giuseppe, both of whom, while fond of Jack's kindness and patronage, always demand cash on the line, no matter the frequency of their daily episodes with Jack. Jack's cultural needs are played out in fascinating asides, moments when the intellect must emerge and steal the podium from sensuality. And it is precisely in these moments that White exercises his facility with the language. 'Both statements were more or less true, but these half-shades became startlingly emphatic colors only because it was easier to write declarations than nuances - and sentences, once awakened on the page, began to rattle and writhe in their own direction, dangerous and hissing and no longer submissive to meaning'. Each of the four stories carry the theme of aging, of recollection, of longing for the unattainable made out of grasp because of the erosion of time. 'Time was speeding up just as it was running out, like the last of the water draining form the sink'. But the manner in which Edmund White carves these tales is not one of desperation, of nihilism. His characters retain the sensual longing yet the inherent dignity of the Marschallin of 'Der Rosenkavalier'. And the stories are just about that operatic. Reading Edmund White is a feast, beautifully prepared. Grady Harp