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MY LIVES by Edmund White Kirkus Star

MY LIVES

An Autobiography

By Edmund White

Pub Date: April 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-06-621397-5
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

The prolific novelist, memoirist and biographer (The Married Man, 2000, etc.) journeys through a lifetime of family, friends, lovers, work and play—at home and abroad.

Whether in fiction or nonfiction, White has essentially been writing about his life for years; he even identifies here the real-life inspirations for some of his fictional characters. But now he directly addresses his own story, inviting readers in a friendly, deceptively casual voice to follow him on a ramble through 65 years of life. White divides the book into fundamental subjects (My Mother, My Father, My Europe, My Friends, etc.), and his text moves in broad swoops. A consideration of Paris, for example, covers not only the years White spent there, writing and knowing the city’s writers, but embraces as well topics including French lessons at a Midwestern prep school and American notions of Parisians. His discourses inevitably come to rest, as his life apparently has, on the matter of love, which he searches out in many guises, finds, loses, then finds again. He recalls the absence of love from a cold, dullish father and the love of a misguided mother that made him wince. Throughout, he muses on his love of men: high-school friends, blond boyfriends and hustlers, a subculture that’s fascinated, excited and satisfied him since he was a young man. Prudes and homophobes beware: The descriptions of his sexual relationships, especially in a section titled “My Master,” are vivid and explicit.

White can be viewed here and in his other works, no matter what their subjects, as a quintessential travel-writer: His cultural, historic and artistic perceptions, as well as his sensory descriptions, are sharp and deeply perceptive, creating a rich sense of time and place.