New book: City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and ’70s, By Edmund White (Bloomsbury)
The author: Called a “master of the erotic confession” by John Irving, Edmund White is a novelist, critic, and Princeton professor of creative writing. A chronicler of New York City intellectual life and the gay world, White has written a previous memoir, My Lives. He also is the author of the autobiographical novel A Boy’s Own Story and a biography of the poet Arthur Rimbaud.
The book: After leaving the Midwest, White followed a lover to New York City instead of pursing a Ph.D. at Harvard. In this memoir, he chronicles his life in the city. He arrives broke and unknown, still a “self-hating gay man” who thinks he might be “cured.” City Boy is social history — he witnesses the start of the gay movement — as well as the story of his own gay liberation and his literary emergence. White writes about setbacks and insecurities and describes the literati he met along the way — from Elizabeth Bishop and Susan Sontag to John Ashbery and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Opening lines: “In the 1970s in New York everyone slept till noon.
“It was a grungy, dangerous, bankrupt city without normal services most of the time. The garbage piled up and stank during long strikes of the sanitation workers. A major blackout led to days and days of looting. We gay guys wore whistles around our necks so we could summon help from other gay men when we were attacked on the streets by gangs living in the projects between Greenwich Village and the West Side leather bars.”
Reviews: Publishers Weekly wrote, “Beneath his patina of pain, a refreshing honesty emerges. This is a brilliant recreation of an era.” White’s sketches of writers and artists, wrote This Week in New York, are “full of bon mots, sharply observed details, and great honesty about his own desires for love and esteem.” By Katherine Federici Greenwood
Author photo by Frank Mullaney.