Novelist │ Memoirist │ Biographer │Social Critic
Edmund White is America’s preeminent gay writer. In biography, social history, travel writing, journalism, the short story, and the novel, this prolific and versatile author has chronicled the gay experience in the United States from the closeted
1950’s through the AIDS crisis. But as William Goldstein wrote in Publishers Weekly
, “To call Edmund White merely a gay writer is to oversimplify his work and his intentions.” The acuity, insight, and compassion with which White explores the human condition transcends such a label.
Edmund White was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and received his B.A. from the University of Michigan. His first novel, Forgetting Elena
, was published in 1973. The story of an amnesia victim, set at a stylish resort reminiscent of Fire Island, Forgetting Elena
is “a semiology of snobbery, its complete sign system,” wrote The Nation
reviewer Simon Karlinsky. “What might at first seem to be merely a witty parody of a particular subculture’s foibles and vagaries actually turns out to be something far more serious and profound. …He has produced a parable about the nature of social interaction that transcends any given period and applies to the human predicament at large.”
With the classic coming-of-age tale A Boy’s Own Story
(1982), White cemented a place for himself--and for gay fiction--in the cultural consciousness. Comparing White to James Baldwin, Herman Wouk, and Mary McCarthy, Thomas M. Disch wrote in Washington Post Book World
that the novel “represents the strongest bid to date by a gay writer to do for his minority experience what the writers above did for theirs—offer it as a representative, all-American instance.”
White’s celebrated fiction also includes Nocturnes for the King of Naples
; Caracole; The Beautiful Room is Empty; The Farewell Symphony; The Married Man
; Fanny: A Fiction
and Hotel de Dream
, which fills in a critical blank in the life of Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage.
His latest novel, Jack Holmes and His Friend
, is about a gay man, a straight man, and their friendship in New York from the 1960’s through the 1990’s.
White has been involved in the gay rights movement since the Stonewall riot in New York City in 1969 and has acted as one of its canniest observers. His pioneering The Joy of Gay Sex: An Intimate Guide for Gay Men to the Pleasures of a Gay Lifestyle
was published in 1977 and served as a national coming-out announcement for the entire gay community. White’s travel memoir, States of Desire: Travels in Gay America
, published in 1980, explored homosexual life in fifteen major American cities just before the advent of AIDS. City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s,
an account of White’s time spent in Manhattan during a time of revolution in the gay subculture, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
White’s work as a cultural critic and his analysis of the impact of AIDS on the gay community and on American society is perhaps his most valuable contribution to letters. In fiction such as The Darker Proof: Stories from a Crisis
and Skinned Alive: Stories
, White “conjures….a serious, sustained look at how AIDS measures and shapes the meaning of our existence” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
In addition to his social commentary, White has also made his mark as a highly accomplished biographer. Genet: A Biography
is recognized as a definitive work on writer and playwright Jean Genet. New York Times Book Review contributor Margo Jefferson said that White “presents the life meticulously, reads Genet’s work intelligently and writes beautifully.” Genet
won the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography in 1994. More recently, White also authored the well-received Marcel Proust
(for the Penguin Lives series) and Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel.
Edmund White has lived in Paris on and off since 1983. He has taught at Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Brown and Yale. Currently, he teaches at Princeton and resides in New York City. He is writing a memoir of his years in Paris, to be published early 2014.
- Jack Holmes and His Friend (Bloomsbury, 2012)
- Hotel De Dreams (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007)
- Fanny: A Fiction (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2003)
- The Married Man (Knopf, 2000)
- Skinned Alive: Stories (Knopf, 1995)
- The Beautiful Room Is Empty (Knopf, 1988)
- Caracole (Dutton, 1985.
- A Boy’s Own Story (Dutton, 1982)
- Forgetting Elena (Random House, 1973)
Selected Awards and Honors
- City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960's and 70's (Bloomsbury USA, 2009)
- Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel (Atlas & Co., 2008)
- The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris (Bloomsbury USA, 2008)
- My Lives: An Autobiography (Ecco Press, 2006)
- Loss within Loss: Artists in the Age of AIDS (Editor, University of Wisconsin Press, 2001)
- Marcel Proust (“Penguin Lives” series, Viking, 1999)
- Our Paris: Sketches from Memory (Knopf, 1995)
- Genet: A Biography (Knopf, 1993)
- States of Desire: Travels in Gay America (Dutton, 1980)
- The Joy of Gay Sex: An Intimate Guide for Gay Men to the Pleasures of a Gay Lifestyle (With Charles Silverstein, Crown 1977)
For more information on Edmund White and his work, please go to www.edmundwhite.com.
- 2009 Finalist, National Book Critics Circle award, City Boy
- 1999 Made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 1997 Made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 1994 National Book Critics Circle award for biography for Genet
- 1993 Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et Lettres (France)
- 1983 Guggenheim Fellowship
- 1982 Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters