Jack Holmes and His Friend
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Jack Holmes and His Friend

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  599 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Jack Holmes and Will Wright arrive in New York in the calm before the storm of the 1960s. Coworkers at a cultural journal, they soon become good friends. Jack even introduces Will to the woman he will marry. But their friendship is complicated: Jack is also in love with Will. Troubled by his subversive longings, Jack sees a psychiatrist and dates a few women, while also pu...more
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Bloomsbury UK
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Gary the SophistiCat
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This was a real coup. I found it in the laundry room and, recognizing Edmund White as a literary lion, I scooped it up. I was immediately captivated by the Mad Men setting and Jack Holmes' quest to figure out what kind of life he wanted. His story is complicated by his grudging acceptance of his homosexuality and his falling in love with Will, an aspiring novelist who happens to be straight. The plot is driven by their on again/off again friendship as they navigate through monogamy, promiscui...more

Edmund White can be an elegant writer. But this book is not. Essentially the story of two friends --- Jack Holmes and Will Wright --who come to New York in the 1960's, the novel seems to drift along, like the two guys. Jack Holmes writes for a newsmagazine. He has a passion for Will that's talked about and talked about. Nothing happens. He also has a large penis, which White mentions almost every other page. (OK. I'm exaggerating, but not by much). What's the point? I don't know. Will, a failed...more
The loneliest I ever felt - and there is a big difference between being lonely and being alone - is when i moved to Washington D.C. for my first job after college.

Except for one family friend, I didnt' know anyone there.

It was a changing point in my life because it tested me in many ways. It tested me on how to be self sufficient when no one is around to help, it tested me on how to make friends even when most people you met seemed to have an established core group already, and it tested me on...more
Robert Patrick
If you are a fan of Edmund White, I would recommend you skip his latest, "Jack Holmes and His Friend". Disappointing on many levels, but most notably for the fact that the main characters are so unlikable. Sadly, for an author who has written so eloquently about gay life in New York ("The Farewell Symphony") and gay liberation in general, White has missed with these two characters. Not even entertainingly unlikable; Jack, I'm afraid, is just another dull boy.
Edmund White's new novel is a surprising departure for the famous author of many gay-themed books. Much of Jack Holmes and His Friend is told first-person by an unswervingly straight man, Will. It is complete with all the details of his sex life with women, his role as a married father, his various mistresses, and his queasy unfocused homophobia. This is not what I expected from White and I wonder what his motivation was? Maybe to prove he can write about red-blooded heterosexuality with ease an...more
This is the 7th novel I've read by Mr. White and I consider him one of the premier gay male writers of his generation. His writing style can be somewhat wordy, but in this latest book, I found his writing to be easy and not as complicated. As with many of his works, it's set in New York and centers around the friendship and fascination that Jack Holmes has with a straight male friend.

White uses a technique that I haven't seen from him before in that the first and third part of the novel is writ...more
Richard Alther
I've always been ambivalent about Edmund White. I'm afraid, for me at least, there is a conceit about his characters, and the authorial tone, that is off-putting and slightly arrogant. I found the characters here to be self-absorbed and uninviting to care for. That said, it's always interesting, at the very least, to read serious fiction by and about gay men.
This starts out much better than it ends up. Jack Holmes' gay awakening in the sixties is literature mixed with pornography at its finest, complete with ridiculous misapprehensions such as the suggestion that the protagonist was doomed to homosexuality because of his abnormally large penis. It's when we meet Jack Holmes' friend that the novel begins to fall apart, because we eventually shift to Will Wright's perspective full time.

When Will Wright isn't designed Sim games, he's judging gay people...more
Mar 16, 2012 Daphne added it
I've been a fan of Edmund White ever since reading A Boy's Own Story years ago. I was excited to read a new work by him, and at first I very much liked this new novel, which begins in the point of view of Jack, a college student conflicted about his sexuality. But about halfway through the book shifts to the perspective of his friend, Will, and at that point the book deflates, simply because the voice is no longer artful; Will's sections are written in the 1st person, and though Will is supposed...more
This is my first Edmund White book and I was thoroughly impressed.This delicious novel is set in 1960s New York. Jack Holmes is ashamed of his sexuality and tries to rid himself of unwanted yearnings through women and therapists. All that changes when Will Wright enters his life and Jack falls head over heels in love with his new straight friend. So begins a lifelong friendship between a straight man and his gay friend.

This book was extremely sexual and did not shy away from the realities of ga...more
No matter what your sexual orientation, if you’re close with someone, there is a sense of love and attraction. You may not find the person sexually attractive, but you understand why others would, and there is something about this person’s aura, intelligence, company, personality, need, something…that makes you fall in love.

Edmund White has written a novel about whether a gay man and a straight man can be close friends. In that sense this book is a little odd, because of course they can! But wha...more
Attraction and attachment and the bond of friendship
The lives of two men interwoven by friendship and love jump off the page of Edmund White’s unaffected and wholly effective new story “Jack Homes & His Friend.”

The friends are Jack Holmes and Will Wright, one gay the other straight. They meet in New York in the early 60s, then a place that “sometimes felt like a rusting but still functioning factory built by a giant,” and during a time social and sexual mores are offering new freedom, when...more
Ray Dennison
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It seems White knows a thing about the unjust circumstances of a best friend falling in love with his. To be sure, sex drives this novel. The possibility alone drives the reader through each chapter, anticipating, cheering for the protagonist. Though instead melancholy pervades long enough to make the story feel real, but is soon encouraged away by the pace of more anticipation. We follow two handsome men through what is surely thirty years of friendship and isolation in New York City. White's a...more
This was a lovely, sad, austere novel. The book is almost 400 pages, yet it felt spare and elegant - always a sign of a talented author and good editor. White writes with a sort of sexual realism, and the parallels between his style and Roth's jumped out at me throughout the novel. That said, there was something pleasantly straightforward and old fashioned about White's prose that is so much pleasing to me than Roth's. As a woman, I enjoyed the sense of voyeurism I got from reading a book that i...more
If I had to only one word to describe this it would be 'alien'. Not because of the homosexuality but because of the Americanism. Much of the time I wondered if it wasn't intended to be tongue in cheek, an exaggeration of all that I, as a Brit, find least appealing about Americans - the preoccupation with appearance, with self-fulfilment (at all levels) and the matter-of-fact reliance on therapists. One reference, intended as an example of Jack's many virtues, to him having three big green plants...more
I had so completely cancelled out reading this novel last year that I borrowed it again in July 2014; only after getting a chapter in did I recognize the depressingly familiar plot. _Jack Holmes_ is such a pointless, vapid story, flaccidly told in shifting points of view and featuring callow, self-obsessed characters with tons of affectation but not an ounce of personality (the men are, of course, endowed with all the features of White’s by now tiresome fictional wish fulfillment: beauty, wealth...more
Clay Scott Brown
Jack Holmes And His Friend Retro Revibe or Coming Attractions?


In White’s Jack Holmes a classic ‘Closet Case’ does the wishy washy. Edmund White one of the so called ‘Gay Communities’ worthwhile celebrities just happens to be a very fine writer. Now a tad older he puts his pedal to the mettle with this lethargic look at a white gay man in America during those ‘fit me in’ years for gay men.

White’s new book comes about at a time when things ju...more
Amy Rhodes
another case where I'm longing for half stars. this one would be 2.5. It's a fairly entertaining look at a gay/hetero friendship but White's straight character is so unlikeable and boorish--even though I'm not sure White meant him to be. I think he's uncomfortable with Will (the man in question) and whether it's social or sexual scenes, they are not believable or engaging. The gay protagonist works much more credibly but that's not enough to carry the whole book.
Robert Moscalewk
I really wanted this to be good, because I've read some Edmund White, and at the beginning it felt good, because here was that Edmund White again, the master of beautiful comparisons, the one who thought of the sun that "pulsed feebly like the aura of a migraine that doesn't develop" and "the windblown hair intricate as Velasquez's rendering of lace", and all that. But then something falls utterly short in this novel and yet I can't name it. The characters seem to be taken out of a magazine, and...more
Brett Nolan
Very disappointing. It felt like an old manuscript pulled from a trunk and revised. White's nonfiction memoir, City Boy, covers the same subject matter, but more authentically and engagingly.
About half way through and thoroughly enjoying it. It just switched from third person to first. Describes life in NYC about 20 years before I lived there. Plus ca change..,
For some reason I assumed this book was published in the 60's, and when I started reading it I was like, Holy smokes! because there are some startlingly explicit sex scenes. And then I realised it came out in 2012, which made way more sense but did dampen the authenticity of it somewhat. And I feel that is a very unfair thing to say, because previously (graphic sex or not) I was completely willing to believe that it dated to that era, so true did it ring and so acute were the observations.
I gues...more
I read Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story many years ago and found it a bit dull -- though I suspect I'd react more positively to it now than I did at twenty. So it wasn't without a little hesitation that I purchased Jack Holmes and His Friend last month. I started it in early February, read about half of it, then put it aside for a couple of weeks. When I picked it up again early this week, I tore through the rest of it in record time.

A genuinely good book about an infrequently-written-about sub...more
Mar 03, 2012 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Flick
Where to begin….

This book is a major disappointment--sloppy, shallow, feckless, lifeless, ponderous, slapdash, inconsequential, flat. Embarrassing--the author, editor, and publisher should be ashamed. I am.

All the characters are outlines, cartoons.

Love is inexplicable, for sure, but Jack's love for Will goes beyond that and the story, unbelievable from the get-go in that Jack doesn't have a clue he's gay until after he has moved to New York City, goes completely off the track when Jack can love...more
Andrew Rumbles
Jack Holmes and His Friend NZ$36.99 Bloomsbury/Allen and Unwin

This is going to get a bit gushy. If you have enjoyed Edmund White’s earlier writing, please put down this copy of Express and simply go buy yourself a copy of Jack Holmes and His Friend, curl up in your favourite book reading spot and enjoy this beautiful novel.
This is a coming of age novel that reflects the halcyon gay age of the 1960s. While you will remember White’s Boys Own Story as the autobiographical tale of a young boy disco...more
Bonnie Brody
Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund White is quite a good book. I found myself engrossed in the lives of Jack and his friend Will as the author takes us through several decades of their friendship. The book opens around 1960 and goes through the onset of AIDs in the 1980's. It is primarily about a friendship between two men, one straight and the other gay.

Jack is originally from the Midwest. He attends the University of Michigan and then goes to New York City after graduation. He attains a job...more
Michael Soros
Something I find with Edmund White's writing is that it can be quite patchy - excellent in one book and unreadable in the next. This particular work is one of the good patches however.

It is described as a novel on modern sexual manners and that is exactly what it is. The main characters are Jack and his friend Will with whom he falls in love. Jack discovers he is gay, slowly but surely and finds that his large endowment is quite a magnet for other gay men so he will never go without. The problem...more
James Henson
White traces the complex friendship of two men, one gay, one straight, from the early 1960's through the early- to mid-1980's, with New York City (mainly) as the backdrop. The book is most concerned with each man's sexuality, including graphic portrayals of their sex and detailed accounts of how they think and feel about it. The phrasing in that characterization is deliberate: he writes explicitly and with great interest in the sex his characters experience, but in the end, White seems at least...more
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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
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A Boy's Own Story The Beautiful Room is Empty The Flaneur The Married Man The Farewell Symphony

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“I'd rather come back with a few transcendent memories than an album of snapshots.” 3 likes
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