NOCTURNES FOR THE KING OF NAPLES by Edmund White

NOCTURNES FOR THE KING OF NAPLES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A long, soliliquous address--craftily modulated into different moody keys and directed to a dead, charismatic, anonymous lover whom the narrator had the callowness and bad fortune to throw over for someone else. White's procedure in this artistically strenuous short novel is to ""relish an amorous history, then lift a hand from the page or my pleasure and find in vivid scenes portents."" Among these vivid scenes: memories of Mother's suicide-day; a summer spent in Spain with playboy Father; living in Italy with the anonymous lover; miscellaneous cruelties and homosexual seductions. White's style is the whole game here. A great deal of the time it is witty and cultured: ""oh my love, don't fear, I won't read off a leporello's list of infant conquests, the constant inquests of evening, trouble nights, the wan dawns of Don Juans."" The rest of the time, it's merely obtrusive: the simplest declarative sentences are swagged with metaphors, as if White couldn't restrain himself from compulsive ornamentation, a sort of nervous prose tic. This kind of work (like White's Forgetting Elena) depends on the light-catching receptivity of extremely discrete, fine sensation--which requires a certain calm. Here, however, White congests his spiny superstructure with so much filigree that the effect is more of tremor than light. Too entranced with its obvious grace, it stops dancing too early and instead merely sways.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1978
Publisher: St. Martin's