Having written four autobiographical novels, starting with A Boy's Own Story, Edmund White has now moved into a new genre, pure autobiography. My Lives reveals everything he has foreshortened or disguised in his previous work. Here is the unvarnished truth about his mother and father, his psychiatrists, his legions of hustlers and lovers, his famous friends. If in his fiction he attempted to fashion a representative gay man of his generation moving from the repression of the fifties towards the liberation of the sixties into the fulfillment of the seventies and the tragedy of the age of Aids in the eighties and nineties, in this new autobiography White has put aside this generalizing and historical perspective. Now he wants to show one man, himself, untypical, even eccentric.
The book does not move chronologically but rather by topics--"My Blonds," "My Friends," "My Europe," "My Women" are just a few of the chapter titles. These chapters become meditations on the adventure of living today as a cultured mind in a great city. In "My Master," White, a 66-year-old Princeton professor, reveals how he became a part-time slave for two and a half years to a handsome young sadist.
But White is too much of a humorist, too excrutiatingly self-conscious, ever to describe his splendors and miseries as tragic or even mystical or wholly perverted. He is a supremely ironic novelist who knows how to make even the most extreme degradation sound flawed, touching, believable. Now at his peak, White has learned how to translate an entire breathing, pulsing life onto the page.
This event is co-sponsored by the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
About Edmund White
Edmund White's novels include Forgetting Elena, Nocturnes for the King of Naples, A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, The Farewell Symphony, and The Married Man. Edmund White teaches creative writing at Princeton University, and this year serves as a Cullman Center Fellow at the New York Public Library. His new book is My Lives: An Autobiography.
About Paul Holdengräber
Paul Holdengräber is the Director of Public Programs - now known as "LIVE from the NYPL" - for The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library. At the NYPL his stated goal is to make the lions roar.