1 minute read

Edmund White Biography

(1940– ), Forgetting Elena, nouveau roman, Nocturnes for the King of Naples

American novelist, essayist, and critic, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, educated at the University of Michigan. His first novel, Forgetting Elena (1973), the account of an amnesiac who regains consciousness in the midst of strangers, demonstrated White's familiarity with such diverse genres as the nouveau roman, the traditional comedy of manners, and science fiction; White himself admitted the influence of classical Japanese writing and its exaltation of aesthetics. His second novel, Nocturnes for the King of Naples (1978), the lament of a man for his older, dead lover, conflates erotic and spiritual love in a selfconscious reworking of the baroque manner. A Boy's Own Story (1982) brought him critical acclaim and commercial success. Through the simple story of an adolescence in the 1950s, White explores issues of gender and sexual choice while reworking the conventional American Bildungsroman. The novel attracted comparisons to Salinger and Oscar Wil0de. His next novel, Caracole (1985), which returns to the fantastic mode of his early work, is set in an imaginary country under foreign rule, and is reminiscent of Latin American magic realism. White reflected on the AIDS crisis and the end of the hedonistic gay lifestyle he had hitherto celebrated in The Darker Proof (1987), which also contained stories by Adam Mars-Jones. The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) continued the story of the nameless narrator of A Boy's Own Story; praised for its authentic depiction of life in the 1960s, the novel was also criticized for its graphic descriptions of casual homosexual encounters. White is also the author of a sociological work, States of Desire: Travels in Gay America (1980), and the editor of The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction (1991).

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robert Penn Warren Biography to Kenneth White Biography