STATES OF DESIRE: Travels in Gay America by Edmund White

STATES OF DESIRE: Travels in Gay America

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A searching, sagacious look at the way homosexuals live now--from Los Angeles (hedonist) to Boston (radical intellectual)--is provided by the novelist and co-author of The Joy of Gay Sex. White's ability to make people and their surroundings breathe is evident as he talks with homosexuals in city after city, not neglecting such medium-sized spots on the sexual map as Cincinnati, Salt Lake, and Memphis. ""New Mexico,"" he writes, ""has been since the Twenties a desert retreat for wealthy, older lesbians and homosexuals, those heirs to fortunes whose origins are shadowy, those dilettantes who paint or sculpt or write poetry in their expensive, simple adobe houses and who emerge on the streets at brief intervals in much-laundered sneakers, elaborate turquoise-and-silver jewelry, a mane of white hair streaming away from a bronzed face."" For the heterosexual, White's travels offer a priviledged glimpse at a familiar yet strange America ruled by an absolute monarch: sexual desire. (Even Portland, Oregon, becomes as mysterious as Baghdad in this heady tour.) Along the way, White muses on such questions as why Southern Baptists dislike gay men? Is there a gay sensibility? Why the current adoration among homosexuals of machismo and sado-masochism? He also makes a spirited defense of the gay cause. As with most good travel writing, the landscape of the author's mind--with its self-admitted interplay of underdog-sympathy and snobbism--is as interesting as the exterior world it surveys. In an epilogue, in which White confesses to some of the weaknesses of the book (ignoring lesbians and small-town or rural life, and scanting older, married and working-class men), he ends by saying, ""I hope it will enable gays and straights to imagine other lives."" It does just that.

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 1979
Publisher: Dutton