World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Edmund White

Edmund White
White in his home in New York, October 2007
Born Edmund Valentine White III
January 13, 1940
Cincinnati, Ohio
Occupation novelist, short stories, non-fiction
Nationality American
Period 1970s-present
Notable works The Joy of Gay Sex, A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, The Farewell Symphony
Spouse Michael Carroll

Edmund Valentine White III (born January 13, 1940) is an American novelist, as well as a writer of memoirs and an essayist on literary and social topics. Much of his writing is on the theme of same-sex love. Probably his best-known books are The Joy of Gay Sex (1977) (written with Charles Silverstein) and his trio of autobiographic novels, A Boy's Own Story (1982), The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997).


  • Early life 1
  • Literary career 2
  • Works 3
    • Fiction 3.1
    • Plays 3.2
    • Nonfiction 3.3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Edmund Valentine White was born on January 13, 1940, in Cincinnati, Ohio. White largely grew up in Chicago. He attended Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan as a boy. Afterwards he studied Chinese at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1962.

Incestuous feelings existed in White's family; his mother was attracted to him. White spoke of his own sexual attraction to his father in an interview: "I think with my father he was somebody who every eye in the family was focused on and he was a sort of a tyrant and nice-looking, the source of all power, money, happiness, and he was implacable and difficult. He was always spoken of in sexual terms, in the sense he left our mother for a much younger woman who was very sexy but had nothing else going for her. He was a famous womanizer. And he slept with my sister!"[1] He has also stated: "Writing has always been my recourse when I've tried to make sense of my experience or when it's been very painful. When I was 15 years old, I wrote my first (unpublished) novel about being gay, at a time when there were no other gay novels. So I was really inventing a genre, and it was a way of administering a therapy to myself, I suppose."[2]

Literary career

White declined admission to Harvard University's Chinese doctoral program in favor of following a lover to New York, where he worked for eight years as a staffer at Time-Life Books and freelanced for Newsweek. After briefly relocating to Rome and then New York, he was briefly employed as an editor for the Saturday Review when the magazine was based in San Francisco in the early 1970s; after the magazine folded in 1973, White returned to New York to edit Horizon (a quarterly cultural journal) and freelance as a writer and editor for entities, including Time-Life and The New Republic.

White is gay and much of his work draws on his gay experience. His debut novel, Forgetting Elena (1973), set on an island, can be read as commenting on gay culture in a coded manner. The American/Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov called it "a marvelous book."[3] Written with psychotherapist Charles Silverstein, The Joy of Gay Sex (1977) made him known to a wider readership. His next novel, Nocturnes for the King of Naples (1978) was explicitly gay-themed and drew on his own life.[4]

From 1980 to 1981 White was a member of a gay writers' group, The Violet Quill, that met briefly during that period and included Andrew Holleran and Felice Picano. White's autobiographic works are frank and unapologetic about his promiscuity and his HIV-positive status.[5]

In 1980 he brought out "States of Desire", a survey of some aspects of gay life in America. In 1982 he helped found the group Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City.[6] In the same year appeared White's best-known work, A Boy's Own Story — the first volume of an autobiographic-fiction series, continuing with The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), describing stages in the life of a gay man from boyhood to middle age. Several characters in the latter novel are recognizably based on well-known people from White's New York-centered literary and artistic milieu.[7]

From 1983 to 1990 White lived in France. In 1984 in Paris he was involved in the foundation of the French HIV/AIDS organisation, AIDES. During this period he brought out his novel, Caracole (1985), which centres on heterosexual relationships. After returning to America White maintained his interest in France and French literature, publishing Genet: a biography (1993), Our Paris: sketches from memory (1995), Marcel Proust (1998), The Flaneur: a stroll through the paradoxes of Paris (2000) and Rimbaud (2008).

White at the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival

The novel The Married Man (2000) is gay-themed and draws on White's life. Fanny: A Fiction (2003) is a historical novel about novelist Frances Trollope and social reformer Frances Wright in early 19th-century America. White's 2006 play Terre Haute (produced in New York City in 2009) portrays discussions that take place when a prisoner, based on terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh, is visited by a writer based on Gore Vidal. (In real life McVeigh and Vidal corresponded but did not meet.)

In 2005 White published his autobiography, My Lives — organised by theme rather than chronology — and in 2009 his memoir of New York life in the 1960s and 1970s, City Boy.

White has been influential as a literary and cultural critic, particularly on same-sex love and sexuality.

He is currently a professor of creative writing in Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts.[8] In June 2012, White was reported by his husband, Michael Carroll, to be making 'remarkable' recovery after suffering two strokes in previous months.[9]

He has received many awards and distinctions. Among these he is a member of the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction.

In 2014, Edmund White was presented the Bonham Centre Award from The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto, for his contributions to the advancement and education of issues around sexual identification.[10]









  • White, Edmund. "My Women. Learning how to love them", The New Yorker, June 13, 2005. Autobiographical article excerpted from My Lives.


  1. ^ Interview with Edmund White, David Shankbone, Wikinews, November 8, 2007.
  2. ^ "Steve Dow, Journalist". 
  3. ^ , 2009.City BoyEdmund White, ("Gerald Clarke...had gone to Montreux to do an interview with Nabokov for Esquire, and followed the usual drill...On his last evening in Switzerland he confronted Nabokov over drinks: 'So whom do you like?' he asked—since the great man had so far only listed his dislikes and aversions. 'Edmund White' Nabokov responded. 'He wrote Forgetting Elena. It’s a marvelous book." He’d then gone on to list titles by John Updike and Delmore Schwartz (particularly the short story “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”), as well as Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy among a few others.")
  4. ^ Yohalem, John (December 10, 1978). "Apostrophes to a Dead Lover".  
  5. ^ Mascolini, Mark (August 2005). "AIDS, Arts and Responsibilities: An Interview With Edmund White". The Body. Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ Wood, Gaby (January 3, 2010). "A walk on the wild side in 70s New York". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ Benfey, Christopher (September 14, 1997). "The Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2013. 
  8. ^ "The Program in Creative Writing, Princeton University". 
  9. ^ Reece, Phil. Washington Blade. "Edmund White’s partner after stroke: ‘his improvement is remarkable’". June 1, 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ "The 2014 Bonham Centre Awards Gala celebrates Power of the Word on April 24, 2014, honouring authors and writers who have contributed to the public understanding of sexual diversity in Canada". 

Further reading

  • Doten, Mark. "Interview with Edmund White", Bookslut, February 2007.
  • Fleming, Keith. "Uncle Ed". Granta 68 (Winter 1999). (A memoir by Edmund White's nephew who lived with White in the 1970s.)
  • Morton, Paul. (April 6, 2006) "Interview: Edmund White", EconoCulture. Retrieved April 29, 2006.
  • Teeman, Tim. (July 29, 2006) "Inside a mind set to explode", The Times (London). Retrieved January 9, 2007.

External links

  • Official website
  • Official webpage at Princeton
  • Jordan Elgrably (Fall 1988). "Edmund White, The Art of Fiction No. 105". The Paris Review. 
  • Interview with Edmund White, Untitled Books
  • of Edmund White's lecture "A Man's Own Story," delivered at the Key West Literary Seminar, January 2008
  • Transcript of interview with Ramona Koval on The Book Show, ABC Radio National November 7, 2007
  • White article archive and bio from The New York Review of Books
  • City BoyAn excerpt from White's memoir
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.