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Nocturnes for the King of Naples
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Nocturnes for the King of Naples

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  178 ratings  ·  22 reviews
A hauntingly beautiful evocation of lost love, Noctunes for the King of Naples has all the startling, almost embarrassing, intimacy of a stranger's love letters. The intense emotional situation envelops the readers from the first page; like all images in a dream, White's characters are the most real people we know, thought they remain phantoms. Each chapter, each nocturne, ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 15th 1988 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1978)
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Anna
Jul 25, 2008 Anna rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: art wankers, vampires, catamites, parasites
Shelves: magic-carpet, wanker
This was a hard book to get into - a cross between John Berger and Edith Sitwell - all purple velvet and longing... the first few chapters are barely linear, mostly quivering sensations; I don't mind this but if a book does it from the outset I can find it hard to echolocate, get a sense of where I am.

A paean to a lost, dead lover, an older man whom the narrator has treated with the callousness of youthful narcissism. Of course, time wreaks its own revenge - he in turn loses his looks and become
...more
Gary Lee
Edmund White has always been a bit of an enigma for me.

He cites such influences as Nabokov, Proust, Genet, and Mishima; yet claims Joyce Carol Oates as his muse. He's continually revered by critics and academics, yet he continues to largely go unnoticed. He writes some of the most beautiful sentences you'll ever read (especially in regards to the American canon), yet very few people read his novels.
It's maddening.
It's sad.
But it's true.


Nocturnes for the King of Naples is an incredibly beautiful
...more
patrick
Another one of my favorite boks. You need an open mind and an open bottle of wine to fully experience this novel.
Daniel
i just. really loved it.

somewhat slow-going and hard to read cuz of the mercurial, impressionistic prose, but for the same reason prob the most unique and enthralling reading experience i can remember.

a self-immolating retrospective bent

..if i speak of my beauty it is only because I've lost it.

I longed away my childhood, resisted my youth, regretted the rest...



startling off-kilter insights

Self-sufficiency may inspire admiration but not love; frank, hungry need excites pity but tranquilizes d
...more
Beth
This is a very unusual book. It's framed like a lyric elegy, in the first person and addressed to a lost lover in the second person, but within (and from) that frame the narrator constructs a story. I haven't read anything else by Edmund White, but based on Nocturnes I would call him a writer's writer: not only every word, but every metaphor and image is perfectly chosen. There's just a sense of completeness and rightness at the end of each sentence; or rather, a sense of rightness attached to t ...more
Evan
The wind died and in my hiding place a bowl of fragrances was lifted like a potpourri culled from leaves, cloves, tar, burned rubber---droll hobby.

If a lady were to ask me I'd say love dwells in memory, moves in memory, is formed by memory, just as the evening light was formed in the curtains that screened it---but no lady asks.

When I was a teenager---oh my love, don't fear, I won't read off a Leporello's list of infant conquests, the constant inquests of evenings, troubled nights, the wan dawns
...more
Deb
Jul 31, 2008 Deb rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: memoir & epistolary fiction junkies
Shelves: fiction
I read this on the 4th of July, when I was waiting for phone calls on what was happening that day. This is NOT the book to read when you are feeling lonely and even slightly unloved, it put me in a funk that was hard to shake. That said, any book that can affect your mood because you empathize with the main character's plight is a pretty decent read.

Basically, this book is like Being John Malkovich for the reader. You are plunked down for an extremely intimate viewing of the world through the ma
...more
Surreysmum
[These notes were made in 1988:]. It is a rather humbling experience to come to a new author out of limited, psychosexual motives, and discover that the book elicits a full range of human response in spite of one. Which windy & euphemistic pronouncement simply means that I came to Edmund White as a gay writer and finish my first encounter with him with a healthy respect for his dense, imagistic style, his powers of observation, and his ability to create a very convoluted narrative without im ...more
George Ilsley
At one point in my life, this novel was a kind of touchstone. It is ridiculous how many times I've read it. I met Edmund White, and told him all about it. He held my hand as we talked.
Jesse S.
A bit rambling, but the language is very poetic, and the characters, with all their idiosyncracies, are very appealing. Not a quick read.
Filip
I couldn't make it through this book. I read it in a Dutch translation which I found clunky and stilted. The opening scene is one of a cruising scene which is described as if everything is throbbing with poignancy. The protagonist is a self-absorbed, superficial and emotionally underdeveloped gay man (dare I see drama queen?). Style-wise, the prose wants to offer deep thought and mysteriousness - but all I could see was sloppy writing redolent of an adolescent diary. This book may have had some ...more
Jonathan
Edmund White is one of my favorite authors, but this book feels very much like a first novel (though it's his second). He seems to be striving for depth, and the results are pretentious and not particularly entertaining. The writing feels labored more than anything else, and even the beautiful and funny parts are deflated by this palpable exertion.

1978 was a big year for gay lit (this book, Larry Kramer's "Faggots" and Andrew Holleran's masterpiece, "Dancer from the Dance"), and this book is act
...more
Rosana
[i]A cigarette rhymes its glow with my own across the huge expanse that has shattered its crystal lining to the ground. [/i]

Did you get that? Neither did I. And this is just page two. It keeps getting … deeper? baroque? I fail to find a description.

Anyway, this is not for me. I don’t mind angst… when it comes with a plot. And I actually enjoy poetic writing… when the sentences make sense.

Life is too short. There are too many books out there to be read. This one is heading to the recycle bin.
Greg
I don’t even really know what to say about this book. Certain elements of the dialogue are compelling, such as “If a lady were to ask me I’d say love dwells in memory, moves in memory, is formed by memory, just as the evening light was formed in the curtains that screened it—but no lady asks.” (10) That said, I found the whole extremely overdramatic. White tries a little too hard for my tastes to be profound.
Katie M.
Lots of obtuse impressionistic longing... I didn't read this book terribly long ago, but I remember pretty much nothing about it, if that tells you anything. I can see how it would strike home if you were in just the right mood... I wasn't, but I'll give it points for that.
Randal
Dec 13, 2008 Randal rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: gay
A beautiful, flowing letter to a lost lover. However, it sometimes flowed up and down the timestream so much that I didn’t know when I was in the story. The imagery was sweet but the storyline, if it can be called that, could have used more focus.
Joshua
Oct 24, 2009 Joshua added it
Shelves: ay09-10
I was motivated to read this by a "name drop" in the NY Times Book Review. Well written (from a stylistic/composition standpoint). Then again, Edmund White really only has one story to tell, and he tells it here.
DoctorM
Eerie-beautiful, haunting, sad, obsessive... A darkly lovely tale of melancholy, loss, and decayed elegance in a dream-city... Disturbing and powerful--- White's best novel. A small gem worth finding.
tai
some delightful writing but pointlessly plotless & episodic. (this from me! what does it mean?!)-- it is not slender enough.
Mark Spano
This EW's best. Read it 3 or 4 times. You'll love it more every time.
S
beautiful. wrapping. filling.
Eric
My favorite of all his books.
Alexander
Alexander marked it as to-read
Oct 12, 2014
Jacob Wren
Jacob Wren marked it as to-read
Sep 11, 2014
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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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