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Jack Holmes and His Friend

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  789 Ratings  ·  143 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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Community Reviews

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Gary  the Bookworm
May 19, 2013 Gary the Bookworm rated it really liked it
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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
Mar 11, 2012 Bernie rated it did not like it

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
Jun 24, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Robert Patrick
Nov 01, 2012 Robert Patrick rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 22, 2012 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay, first-edition
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
Oct 13, 2013 Don rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 19, 2016 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2016
Set in 1960s New York, this novel builds up around the friendship of two men, Jack and Will, the former gay and in love with his straight friend. Their friendship with each other and relationships with others are the focal point through which the author explores themes of promiscuity, infidelity, gay life in the city at that time, homophobia, and more. While objectively interesting as a study of a trainwreck of personalities and interpersonal relationships, I just found the characters (every sin ...more
Richard Alther
Jul 05, 2013 Richard Alther rated it liked it
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.
Brett Nolan
Jul 09, 2013 Brett Nolan rated it did not like it
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.
Sep 11, 2015 Kate rated it liked it
Five things about Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund White:

1. There were probably more descriptions of scrotums than I needed but hey, we’re all adults.

2. I picked up this book because I read an interview (years ago) with John Irving who said it was the book he was currently reading (and enjoying).

3. The characters are Irvingesque* – they’re a little odd, a little eccentric and they’re trying to be ‘normal’.

4. The ‘friend’, Will, is real pain.

5. There was a lovely opportunity for the author to
May 19, 2013 Alex rated it liked it
Shelves: gay, new-york
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
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
Jun 15, 2012 Chelsea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Flick
Feb 26, 2013 Michael Flick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worst
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
Apr 12, 2012 Schmacko rated it really liked it
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
Feb 07, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it
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
Aug 19, 2014 Ray rated it liked it
Shelves: glbt
In Jack Holmes, Edmund White approaches 20th century homosexuality differently from his previous works. Although the novel's namesake is homosexual, White's focus and most intimate psychological explorations deal with Will Wright, Jack Holmes’ straight object of desire. Although the novel's central theme is homosexuality, White approaches it through the eyes of a straight male. Through characterization and the juxtaposition of Jack and Will, White questions the nature of sexual orientation and t ...more
Sep 06, 2012 Samir rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
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
Apr 10, 2013 Sandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
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
Jul 03, 2014 Wendell rated it it was ok
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 Brown
Mar 02, 2014 Clay Brown rated it liked it
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
Amy Rhodes
May 31, 2012 Amy Rhodes rated it liked it
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.
May 29, 2016 Hannah rated it it was ok
Loved the beginning but then it felt flat - a cartoonish romp through New York of the 60s (closeted gay men!), 70s (orgies!) and 80s (AIDS!). How many times must Jack's big penis have been mentioned? The ubiquitous racism (getting the clap from the black delivery boy, only black women enjoy sex etc) was also off putting. Worst was how boring Will was - I found it totally unconvincing that he should have been the subject of a 30+ year obsession. Yawn.
Allen Levine
Jan 19, 2015 Allen Levine rated it really liked it
Edmund White almost never disappoints. His biographies (of Genet, Rimbaud, and Proust), his fiction, and his autobiographical works are all impressive. Jack Holmes and His Friend is really no different. The story traces the evolution of a friendship between two men that begins when they meet at a magazine in their first post-college jobs.

The first and third portions of the work are told by a narrator and revolve around Jack Holmes. The middle portion of the book is told in first person by Jack'
Interesting look at straight and gay friendships and their misconceptions about each other and the life that one leads. Jack is in love with his straight best friend where although never consummated, the sexual tension is always on the back burner. White does a good job with the change in narrative ( from third to first and back) in the various parts. Found that more is revealed about the straight man than about Jack who is gay--I would have thought opposite with White as author. Is the relation ...more
Oct 06, 2012 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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..,
Gary Lee
Mar 29, 2012 Gary Lee rated it it was amazing
A fantastic read -- easily, the best fiction the man has written in years.
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
Mar 09, 2012 Graham rated it it was amazing
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
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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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