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The Beautiful Room Is Empty (The Edmund Trilogy #2)

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,968 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
When the narrator of White's poised yet scalding autobiographical novel first embarks on his sexual odyssey, it is the 1950s, and America is "a big gray country of families on drowsy holiday." That country has no room for a scholarly teenager with guilty but insatiable stirrings toward other men. Moving from a Midwestern college to the Stonewall Tavern on the night of the ...more
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published (first published 1988)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
White’s follow-up to A Boy's Own Story is an admirable effort. The language is still extraordinary. The various episodes recounted in the author’s life are certainly free from sentiment – if anything, the author leans towards self-evisceration and distance. Perhaps this absence of nostalgia is what makes the book rather off-putting. In A Boy’s Own, the style was eye-opening. In Beautiful Room, at times it feels a little too self-consciously alienated, as if edmund white himself is fearful of rev ...more
Paul Bryant
May 30, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This is a beautifully written memoir of Edmund going to college and being as gay as it was possible to be, in fact constantly attempting to invent even gayer things to do and to be.

This book is hilarious. I think it helps to have a wicked sense of humour if you're in a despised minority (so on that logic war criminals must be a real tonic to be around.)

This is not from the book but I remember a news programme from way back, when Aids was at its height. The Queen visited some hospital or anothe
Sep 10, 2009 Jesse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edmund White's writing style is more or less a series of incredibly vivid vignettes linked together through simple chronology. And while the individual events, memories and musings are often beautiful in and of themselves, it has a curiously monotone effect after a while, almost like banging the same chords on a piano over and over--not even the most gorgeous notes can sustain their impact if piled on top of each other with nothing between to showcase their individual merit. That said, White's n ...more
Roof Beam Reader
May 30, 2014 Roof Beam Reader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988) by Edmund White:
Aug 31, 2009 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This novel, although I suppose it is usually categorized under gay fiction, is an excellent coming of age novel that picks at the conservative Midwestern society of the late 50s and ends up describing both the promises and failures of New York City in the early to mid 60s. If I had discovered this book in high school, I would have fallen in love with all of the characters and over-identified with their struggle to live as their true selves, although I would have been horrified by the anonymous b
You know how you can be doing some mundane task and all of a sudden a random memory just surfaces? For a while you are just reliving that moment and maybe you even smile because that line between the physical and mental world is blurred enough to allow you to.

That’s sort of the effect this book has left on me.

The Beautiful Room Is Empty is one of the few books that left me with very distinct scenes, as if Edmund White’s memories are now mine.

Edmund White is a very talented writer; I think tha
Oct 23, 2010 A rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
Titling your novel "The Beautiful Room is Empty" is really asking for it, and this book unfortunately lives up to the insult of its title. The luminous, mordantly insightful writing style White is known for is in full flower here, but it all unspools across the page with no purpose, no heart. The deeply moving emotional bedrock you usually feel grounding you so powerfully while wandering through White's patented haze of romantic, vaguely connected set pieces seemed totally lacking here. The endi ...more
Oct 30, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it
Tangential story: while in college, I once got furious (but didn't say anything for fear of an outburst) when a classmate said that Alan Ginsburg was responsible for the sort of madness, anxiety, and depravity he wrote about in poems like "Howl." She just couldn't accept that society could marginalize and disenfranchise people to the point where they were capable of such madness.

"The Beautiful Room is Empty" reminds me a lot of "Howl" -- it's a story of a man who didn't and couldn't fit the stan
Mar 30, 2014 Blair rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You got to atleast give Edmund White credit for crafting such strong visuals regarding sex and the male form: "revealing a hairless chest marbled by blue veins and decorated like a piece of wedding cake with two candle sockets in pink frosting--the erect nipples" (pg. 178).
"..untidy Minnie Mouse with big thighs of mushroom pallor." (pg. 175).
"the tan line suggested poolside swimsuit, frosted glass, sunglasses....But the hickory-hard straining of this cock upward spelled animal--a straight line
The title is not a line from a scene in the book. Perhaps it's a warning?

I'm no great fan of autobiography but this is one of the best tooled autobiographies. I've ever read. My problem with the book is that it seems to meander through comonplace events that have been told in more engaging ways elsewhere. No matter how nice the cup, poor coffee is still poor coffee. The writing here is excellent and at times brilliant but the story itself is unengaging.

While it deals with one man's journey from
Tim Farmer
Oct 13, 2015 Tim Farmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For many gay 'men of a certain age,' this book is all-too familiar on various levels. Sometimes dark, sometimes sexy, sometimes sad. As social acceptance of gays moves forward, this book will, I hope, become a historical record of the not-so-good old days.
Oct 24, 2008 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I felt like I needed some gay literature in my life and was hoping for a dramatized historical fiction that would be perhaps heartwrenching or informative or something. The character was neither likeable, lovable, hatable, or commendable. I had a hard time reading the book because I didn't care what happened to the main character, or even the supporting characters. The last 50 pages were good. All the others I felt were on the verge of poor writing. At least foggy - I felt like the plot had no d ...more
Feb 23, 2010 Brett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i cried on the subway.
a lot of people discredit this book, saying it is not a novel, that it is a thinly veiled autobiography, that the narrator is hard to love. all of these things may be true, but take away from the fact at hand: this is really good writing. the first time "searing" has ever come to mind to describe something i've read. from "i did not travel." on page 223, i don't think i breathed at all while reading the last six pages. sadly, the beautiful room is, in fact, empty - thank go
Mar 15, 2015 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled "a novel," but barely recognizable as such since it reads like a beautifully written but otherwise quite commonplace memoir. A brainy, well-read young gay man grows up in the repressed, conformist America of the 50's and early 60's. Um . . . wow, how shocking. Maybe it would have been better if White had focused on one particular stop in his journey from uncertain closeted teen to uncertain openly gay youth -- the prep school, the University of Michigan fraternity, the Chicago gold coa ...more
Sep 24, 2014 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written as a part memoir of growing up homosexual in the USA of the 1950s, when such things weren't really accepted, this novel reads as a more sympathetic, but no less literate Hollinghurst. In the post HIV era, a lot of the description of the rather lonely, yet promiscuous life of the author reads more as an elegy for a closeted lifestyle that may be best forgotten in a more open society.

While a novel depicting such unfairness in a relatively modern era always causes some stirring of emotion,
Not the sort of book I would have read many years ago when it was first published (1988), or indeed reissued (1994 in this one). My own trajectory through these images of relationships has been between the forcefulness of others insisting that their stereotypes of experience are ones that I should also be confronted with, as they were.
This has lead to my own resistance.
Now I find I can more easily read the work of Edmund White directly and see how gently he unfolds the resistances and the forces
Book Wormy
May 11, 2015 Book Wormy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read
The Beautiful Room is Empty Edmund White

This is the second book in a trilogy about a gay boy growing up and coming to terms with his sexuality, I think this would have been better read in order however book bingo assigned me this book and not the first and having read the description I wasn't sure I would want to read anything else

This book deals with the narrator becoming an adult he is attending college and associating with bohemians one of whom, Maria, becomes a firm friend.

What I liked about
"Non si può parlare delle cose più intime e importanti con gli estranei, eccetto che nei libri".

Secondo episodio della tetralogia autobiografica di Edmund White, focalizzato sugli anni universitari. Dall'esordio in un'accademia d'arte al tentativo di andare per la propria strada: in mezzo, la compulsiva ricerca del sesso e il bisogno di un'accettazione di sé.
Poetico, dolceamaro, fortemente ironico e godibilissimo, questo secondo episodio si presenta come una certa conferma delle qualità del prim
Carmilla Voiez
Aug 21, 2015 Carmilla Voiez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I have ever read a book by a modern Western writer with as densely packed descriptive language as Edmund White's novel. One paragraph, for example, reads - "Cars on MacDougal slowly waded through people like buffalo through flooded paddies. The sound of voices, of street musicians, rang off the brick wall of tenements. Above the streetlights shadowy families sat on metal fire escapes. Now we passed an ornate Italian coffee shop, flyblown mirrors hung in gilt frames dimmer than a he ...more
Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter
The second novel in Edmund White's trilogy "The Beautiful Room is Empty" explores oppression. Again one is moved by his intelligence, humour, anger and poetic language, which I will let speak for itself:
"We listened to an old scratchy recording of a Bach unaccompanied cello suite. The music, so spare, so passionate, seemed at any moment about to break into speech. It cut with precision into the big soft folds of time that nearly smothered us."
"The Beautiful Room is Empty" is the second book in Edmund White's semi-autobiographical trilogy about coming out in the 1960's and his efforts to accept his sexuality.

In this installment, the narrator continues to torture himself by trying to talk himself out of his homosexuality through therapy, while also experimenting with his sexuality through pretty much every avenue that was available to gay men in the 1960's. Our narrator surrounds himself with others who are also struggling too.

I didn'
Aug 20, 2015 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrator of this autobiographical novel is filled with coruscating shame and self-loathing. He despises himself for desiring men, despises every man he has sexual contact with for being as contemptible as he is and wanting someone as contemptible as he is. But nothing will stop or change his desires, so he masochistically wallows in them, making every act of sex an act of disgust (the fact that White has written a book about Genet surprises me not at all). But he continues to long for love, ...more
Kathleen Hagen
The Beautiful Room is Empty, by Edmond White, Narrated by George Backman, Produced by Audible Studios, downloaded from

This is the second in the trilogy of autobiographical novels by White. In this one he starts off at college at the U. of Michigan, but finds the Midwest in general in the 1960’s to be inhospitable to people who are trying to determine if they are gay. He tries various therapies to “deny his tendencies” but finds it pretty much impossible. Toward the end of this book,
Tristan Goding
While Edmund White's previous account of his boyhood, A BOY'S OWN STORY, was full of erotic nostalgia, tension, and insight, his follow-up, THE BEAUTIFUL ROOM IS EMPTY, is mostly very tragic. White was going through an extremely dark time during this period, and this book is brimming with bitterness and resentment as a result. I appreciated the honesty and the straightforwardness of the book, but I have to admit that I yearned for that more innocent, confused, mildly perverted voice that White e ...more
Jul 31, 2015 Margarida rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deste segundo livro não gostei tanto como o primeiro, muito por culpa de uma má revisão, abundando as gralhas; o tradutor não é o mesmo e o lirismo do primeiro livro não é alcançado com esta tradução.
Feb 24, 2016 Len rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seems kind of fun to me that I am just discovering White and some of the classics of gay lit in this year, the 25th anniversary of my coming out...late to the game as I often am.

I'm sure this book was shocking in its day, simply for its subject matter.
What is more shocking to me, today, is how differently gay men lived than they do now; the in-the-shadows life, the constant, compulsive sexual encounters, the vamping and the cutting remarks.
While there is still some of that left to us, we seem mo
Sep 02, 2014 NancyHelen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exquisitely written with unbelievable characterisation, this book is poignant and tragic while being beautiful at the same time. The narrator, living at a time when homosexuality was seen as a disease which could be cured, battles continuously with his own sexuality and his belief that he will ultimately be cured of it. He doesn't see himself as worthy of love, and when he does fall in love at the end of the book, the relationship ends because both men can't shake this belief that their homosexu ...more
D.C. Flake
Nov 05, 2015 D.C. Flake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Deep thinkers who need to chill.
Shelves: favorites
If you want something deep to brood over, this is a good one. It is Very well written, and from the technique and language of the writer it is obvious that he is easily on par with the likes of Truman Capote or Gore Vidal, tho not near as pretentious. It is a very calming read without being in anyway mindless. If you just go unquestioningly along with the story, you will kind of float through it. This is and should be a sort of hidden gem, or else it will get ruined from all the over analyzing p ...more
Sometimes I have the feeling that we're in one room with two opposite doors and each of us holds the handle of one door, one of us flicks an eyelash and the other is already behind his door, and now the first one has but to utter a word and immediately the second one has closed his door behind him and can no longer be seen. He's sure to open the door again for it's a room which perhaps one cannot leave. If only the first one were not precisely like the second, if he were calm, if he would only p ...more
Tex Reader
3.5 of 5 stars – Intelligent Prose, But Still Left Me A Bit Empty.

Like Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story, this was an interesting study of a gay YA, conveyed through his own narrative story. This also had similar issues as book 1, but not as much, so I grew to like book 2 a bit more.

I actually appreciated the prose more in this one – similar beautiful phrasings, but this time more realistic because it didn't overstretch as much. I thought the prose was at its best describing the emotions of falli
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Edmund White's novels include Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, and A Married Man. He is also the author of a biography of Jean Genet, a study of Marcel Proust, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, and, most recently, his memoir, My Lives. Having lived in Paris for many years, he is now a New Yorker and teaches at Princeton University. He was also a membe ...more
More about Edmund White...

Other Books in the Series

The Edmund Trilogy (3 books)
  • A Boy's Own Story
  • The Farewell Symphony

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“Sometimes I have the feeling that we're in one room with two opposite doors and each of us holds the handle of one door, one of us flicks an eyelash and the other is already behind his door, and now the first one has but to utter a word ad immediately the second one has closed his door behind him and can no longer be seen. He's sure to open the door again for it's a room which perhaps one cannot leave. If only the first one were not precisely like the second, if he were calm, if he would only pretend not to look at the other, if he slowly set the room in order as though it were a room like any other; but instead he does exactly the same as the other at his door, sometimes even both are behind the doors and the the beautiful room is empty." Franz Kafka (in a letter to Milena Jesenska)” 12 likes
“Suffering does make us more sensitive until it crushes us completely.” 6 likes
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