Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

French Lessons

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

French Lessons

Article excerpt

Edmund White talks about his new novel, a story of love's mysteries that reflects his cultural and sexual struggles with his late French lover

Edmund White knows nothing quickens the pulse like a little mystery, particularly if that mystery is in the swarthy form of a younger, sexually ambiguous foreigner. The Married Man, White's 15th book and fourth autobiographical novel, is the affecting story of a chatty, charming American writer and scholar named Austin and his secretive, refined French boyfriend, Julien. Based on White's actual relationship with the late Hubert Sorin (with whom he wrote Our Paris), the novel is a beautiful yet unsettling account of loving a self-absorbed, childlike and ultimately enigmatic bisexual man.

"In real life I lived with someone who was very much like Julien," says the 60-year-old White, referring to Sorin, who like Julien left a heterosexual marriage to be with a man. "And I wanted to write about it honestly. I didn't want to glorify it."

Indeed, the character of Julien, with all his hissy fits and self-delusions, is hardly the picture-perfect beau. Yet neither is he the bitter creation of an ex-lover seeking revenge. Rather, he is a complex mix of human frailty and willfulness, a humbling reminder of the infuriating person we're all capable of being--or obsessing over, much to our friends' dismay and disbelief. "I think we all fall for some bastards in our life," says White. "Although I think Julien is also totally lovable."

For White, part of Julien's appeal stems from his incredible sense of dignity. …

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