THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY by Edmund White

THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This long, rich fiction, set mostly in Manhattan and Paris, concludes White's autobiographical trilogy--and falls somewhere in quality between the pellucid excellence of A Boy's Own Story (1983) and the mannered redundancy of its sequel, The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988). Here, the story of a generation--the one that originated the gay liberation movement in the late 1960s, then began dying out a few years later with the AIDS pandemic--is compressed into the remembered experiences of its narrator, a bereaved lover mourning the deaths and looking backward over 30 years' worth of sexual adventuring and slow progress toward maturity and success as a writer. White gives a good graphic picture of bohemian Paris in 1968, and elsewhere offers unusual perspectives on familiar locales (cruising at the Colosseum in Rome, observing ""Fire Island as an exact analogue of medieval Japan""). The novel's signal weakness is the sameness of the many, many men who wander in and out of the narrator's life (his recently deceased lover Brice is scarcely a character at all; on the other hand, Jamie, a sybaritic NYC ""blueblood,"" exhibits a cockeyed charisma that fully justifies the narrator's exasperated fascination with him). White writes plaintively about the disappointments of aging and losing one's sexual allure, and convincingly connects the decline of phallic power with the fear of literary senescence. If he's a bit smug about the mores and pleasures of being a gym rat, he writes vividly, and always amusingly, about the mechanics and etiquette of ""tricking."" White's unmatched ability to communicate the tension between asserting one's right to be ""different"" and yearning to be accepted as ""normal"" is brilliantly displayed again. Nothing human is alien to him, and none of his alienated souls is anything less than achingly human.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0679754768
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Knopf