Thursday, November 23, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Edmund White


American writer.
Edmund White
We lived one year in a suburb so new it was still being built in fields of red clay: a neat grid of streets named after songbirds was being dropped like a lattice of dough over a pie. Up and down Robin and Tanager and Bluebird I raced my bike; in a storm I pedaled so fast I hoped to catch up with the wind-driven rain. As I sped into the riddling wet warmth I shook my right hand according to a magical formula of my own. The universe, signaled by its master, groaned, revolved, released a flash of lightning. At last the imagination, like a mold on an orange, was covering the globe of my mind.
White quotes
Tommy started to play the guitar and sing. He and I had trekked more than once downtown to the Folk Center to hear a barefoot hillbilly woman in a long, faded skirt intone Elizabethan songs and pluck at a dulcimer or to listen, frightened and transported, to a big black Lesbian with a crew cut moan her way through the blues. The People — those brawny, smiling farmers, those plump, wholesome teens bursting out of bib overalls, those toothless ex-cons, those white-eyed dust bowel victims — the People, half-glimpsed in old photos, films and WPA murals, were about to reemerge, we trusted, into history and our lives.
White
Do we regard language as more public, more ceremonial, than thought? Just as family men condemn the profanity on the stage that they use constantly in conversation, in the same way we may look to written language as an idealization rather than a reflection of ourselves.




White Edmund quotes
Perhaps we'd understood each other too well to be attracted to one another. There were no occlusions in communication, those breaks in understanding that awaken desire.
White Edmund
All his leisure clothes were absurd — jokes, really — as though leisure itself had to be ridiculed.
Edmund White quotes
Sometimes I look at the battered exteriors of apartment buildings in New York and think how these sorry shells have housed such a long procession of styles. The money! The effort! One tenant mirrors everything, the next panels the walls, the third lines them with mylar, the fourth turns to toile de Jouy, the fifth to pegboard or handblocked rice paper. The expensive if often shoddy interiors installed only to be dismantled, the exterior left untouched as it turns yet another shade sootier — this transience seems a fitting emblem for the way we stay up-to-date without ever changing.
Edmund White
I am, I must confess, suspicious of those who denounce others for having "too much" sex. At what point does a "healthy" amount become "too much"? There are, of course, those who suffer because their desire for sex has become compulsive; in their cases the drive (loneliness, guilt) is at fault, not the activity as such.
White Edmund quotes
Yes, sex may be at least in part inflected by politics, our fantasies may be at least in part a compendium of cultural myths, but the ways in which sex and fantasy ripen within the individual seem to me to vary so greatly that summaries become useless, even dangerous.
White
Biography can be the most middle-class of all forms, the judgment of little people avenging themselves on the great. One English critic took me to task for not saying that Genet was "afraid of intimacy" all his life because he'd been abandoned by his mother at the age of seven months. All the evidence needed to make such an interpretation is in my book, but I don't myself draw the vulgar conclusion. Since most literary biographies ignore the work except for potted plot summaries, they strip the biographee of everything redeeming and leave his or her subject to this spiteful revenge, this half-baked Freudian-Christian-bourgeois moralizing.
White Edmund
The notion that I might have been able to court friends, win attention, conjure it, would have spoiled it for me. Unbidden love was what I wanted.
Edmund White
I still feel that sincerity and realism are avant-garde, or can be, just as I did when I started out.




Edmund White quotes
He and Marilyn were lovers, but this was never said in so many words. Explicitness about one’s romantic arrangements had apparently been deemed gauche. In my middle-class teen-age world, the whole apparatus of going steady, exchanging ID bracelets, smooching at dances, fighting, breaking up, submitting to the arbitration of friends — that was the point, the public drama.
Edmund White
He's scattered, his sentences trail off, he sighs frequently, as though he's so intelligent he's always frustrated by the formulaic nature of speech (each sentence a ride you can't get off once the attendant buckles you into the car).
White quotes
For gay men this force of history has been made to come clean; it’s been stripped of its natural look. The very rapidity of change has laid bare the clanking machinery of history. To have been oppressed in the 1950s, freed in the 1960s, exalted in the 1970s and wiped out in the 1980s is a quick itinerary for a whole culture to follow. For we are witnessing not just the death of individuals but a menace to an entire culture. All the more reason to bear witness to the cultural moment.
White Edmund
How thrilling to discover one had depths, how consoling to find them less polluted than the shallows, how encouraging to identify the enemy not as a fissure in the will but as a dead fetus in the specimen jar of the unconscious. My attention was being paternally led away from the excruciating present to the happy, healthy future that would be enabled by an analysis of the sick past, as though the priest had nothing to do but study old books and make bright forecasts, the present not worthy of notice.
White Edmund quotes
In our imaginations the adults of our childhood remain extreme, essential — we might say radical since they are the roots that fed luxuriant later systems. Those first bohemians, for instance, stay operatic in memory even though were we to meet them today — well, what would we think, we who've elaborated our eccentricities with a patience, a professionalism they never knew?
Edmund White
In return for the costliness and inconvenience, the squalor and discomfort of our lives, we get to participate in whatever is the latest. We are never left out of anything: we know what's happening, especially since so many of us practice what Paul Valéry called the "delirious professions." As Valéry wrote, "This is the name I give to all those trades whose main tool is one's opinion of oneself, and whose raw material is the opinion others have of you." Although Valéry was writing eighty years ago of Paris, he anticipated the excruciating position of those gay (and straight) New York "creative people" who must be perpetually original in a "population of uniques." The cruel contradiction of such a position is that the creative "live for nothing but to have, and make durable, the illusion of being the only one — for superiority is only a solitude situated at the present limits of a species." The exigencies of the drive to originality can, as Valéry understood, promote a deep uncertainty about one's personal value. If one is a product, is it new enough? Perfect? One of a kind?
Edmund White quotes
There is an enormous pressure placed on gay novelists because they are the only spokespeople. The novelist's first obligation is to be true to his own vision, not to be some sort of common denominator or public relations man to all gay people.
Edmund White
Recognizing that the world is governed by a minority, the sexually active, and that they hold sway of a huge majority of the nonsexual, those people too young or too old or too poor or too homely or sick or crazy or powerless to be able to afford sexual partners (or the luxury of systematic, sustained and shared introspection, so sexual in its own way). All advertisements and films and songs are addressed to sexuals, to their rash whims and finicky tastes.
White Edmund
The school was nothing but reminiscence — of an Italian hill town, a French abbey, an English academy, the different sources improbably but convincingly melded into a fantasy about the classic sites of Europe as imagined by exiles from cold peripheral lands, nostalgia about somebody else's past.


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