White, Edmund

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

White, Edmund

Edmund White (Edmund Valentine White 3d), 1940–, American writer, b. Cincinnati, grad. Univ. of Michigan (B.A., 1962). White is one of the best known—and probably the finest stylist—of the openly gay writers who came to public attention in the 1970s and 80s, and he was a pioneer of the genre that has been called gay literature. His first novel, Forgetting Elena (1973), the tale of a young amnesiac's struggle to reassemble his life, was highly stylized and linguistically inventive, as was Nocturnes for the King of Naples (1978). His later works concentrate on the struggles, pleasures, and political stances of members of contemporary America's middle-class male homosexual community. These themes are evident in a semiautobiographical trilogy of novels tracing the protagonist's realization of his sexuality and coming of age (A Boy's Own Story, 1982), his troubled young manhood and political awakening (The Beautiful Room Is Empty, 1988), and his middle age in an AIDS-ravaged city (The Farewell Symphony, 1997). Among White's other works are the novels The Married Man (2000), Fanny (2003), Hotel de Dream (2007), and Jack Holmes and His Friend (2012) and short stories, e.g., those in Skinned Alive (1995). His nonfiction includes The Joy of Gay Sex (1977, with C. Silverstein), States of Desire: Travels in Gay America (1980), a major biography of Jean Genet (1993), short biographies of Proust (1999) and Rimbaud (2008), a study of Paris entitled The Flâneur (2001), and essays, e.g., Arts and Letters (2004).

See his autobiography, My Lives (2006) and his memoirs, City Boy (2009) and Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris (2014); biography by S. Barber (1999).

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