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Farewell Symphony
Edmund White
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Farewell Symphony (The Edmund Trilogy #3)

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  569 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Following A Boy's Own Story (now a classic of American fiction) and his richly acclaimed The Beautiful Room Is Empty, here is the eagerly awaited final volume of Edmund White's groundbreaking autobiographical trilogy.

Named for the work by Haydn in which the instrumentalists leave the stage one after another until only a single violin remains playing, this is the story of
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published August 26th 1997 by Random House Value Publishing (first published January 1st 1997)
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Maureen Stanton
This is a brilliant beautiful book. If Edmund White were not writing about gay culture, he'd be as widely read as Updike, Roth, and Delillo, and he should be.
The other day I was chit chattin’ on Facebook with my FB friend Dave and I told him I was reading this book and how much I was enjoying it and how candid Ed White has always been about his extremely promiscuous past in the go-go-gay ‘70’s. Dave replied that Edmund is slutty as fuck and that’s what he loves about him and I agreed. I said just want to be Ed’s best friend and Dave jokingly said that he just wants to pee on him and I suggested he just go ahead and ask Ed already. You know, just you ...more
Steve Woods
Together with the first two volumes in this trilogy, White has appeared out of what has been for me, the mist of gay literature as one of the most proficient writers I have ever read. This man wastes not a word, his characterizations are powerful but in a way such that they slide up on you. I felt that I really knew the characters peopling this tale-though at times that sense of things was uncomfortable for me. At times horrified, at times disgusted, at times enthralled, at times highly amused b ...more
Before moving to Paris I bought myself a few packages of oversized black t-shirts, to match my new pair of black Nike running shoes. I thought I could plug into the latest iteration of the art-world uniform, spread around the internet as “Ghetto Gothic,” collaging morose adolescence with an efficient interest in over-designed sportswear. Apparently I had completely forgotten that, given my gainly physique, clothes work their hardest to fit me wrong. These draped layers of black should appear eff ...more
This site really needs an "on hold" list.
I'll explain...

My mom gave this book to me, which is surprising since it's pretty much gay smut hidden in a Proustian pseudo-memoir. She would later scold me for owning the fantastic "Butt Book" (the magazine retrospective), which is an intelligent survey of smarty homosexuals masquerading as gay smut- little did she know they had pictures of her beloved White sucking toes in it accompanying his interview. I called her a hypocrite- end of story.

Ok, back
I'm 20 years younger than White and a straight women, or I guess these days I'm a cisgender female, but this book brought back memories of all the gay young men I had the pleasure of hanging with from late '70's through the mid 80's. It also brought back memories of that horrible, terrifying time when AIDS first appeared. Every time one of my friends would cough, I would worry. I lost touch with most of those men years ago as my life went in a trajectory that included marriage and children, thin ...more
Christopher Barnes
Young gay men *need* to be reading Edmund White. I doubt most of the men in my generation even know who he is, let alone why he's important. His works chronicle a period in gay history that was incredibly important for us to be where we are today. He was in some ways the voice of his generation, and it is a sad, beautiful, engaging voice that makes reading this book a pleasure.
This book is a doozy. So vivid and so rich that after putting the book down I had to remind myself I didn't live this life, Edmund White did.
(Psst: it's about AIDS).
Dusty Myers
With the third novel of his otherwise dull trilogy, White, and we all, have AIDS to thank. Whereas A Boy's Own Story had nothing to connect its narrative to outside of the narrator's own obsessions, The Beautiful Room is Empty had the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Except the book ends with this event, it's literally on the last page, which is stupid seeing as how it was such a beginning of something; the book as a result isn't so much about gay liberation as it is about the narrator's obsessions ...more
I hated this the first time through. A loose, baggy monster--or so it seemed to someone coming to it straight from 'Forgetting Elena,' that jewel. Subsequently I've reread it, in little nonconsecutive forays, and have found much that's funny and wise and humorously raunchy (a friend of mine who's gay and thinks that deep down every straight man is revolted by homosexuality, is amazed that I can stomach, and even laugh at, some of the sex described in this book; in the face of my unshockability a ...more
I confess, I've always secretly wanted to read those "sex tips from gay men" books. Thank God I discovered Edmund White. Juicy gossip couched in what Jonathan Franzen would call "high art literary tradition". A guilty pleasure without the guilt. Yet the book rewards on so many other levels. Dare I say, there is wisdom in this book: on sex, on aging, on beauty, on writing. From dining with Foucault in Paris to trolling for rough trade in Venice to the angst of socially identifying oneself as a wr ...more
Richard Jespers
The allusion in the title is the best thing this novel may have going for it.

“I kept thinking of Haydn’s The Farewell Symphony. In the last movement more and more of the musicians get up to leave the stage, blowing out their candles as they go. In the end just one violinist is still playing.”

This could have been the last sentence of the novel. The book ends there for me if not sooner. I get so disgusted with book editors [if indeed this is an editorial problem]. The novel has such a luxurious
Anyone who has read White's other two autobiographical novels will not be disappointed by this one. All his well known qualities, which are too numerous to mention can be found in this book. The voice of a true poet!
Dreadful. Edmund White takes himself way too seriously.
Jonathan Wichmann
An eloquent and provocative personal account of gay life in New York City from the 50s through the 70s and the onset of AIDS in the 80s. Exuberant, trenchant, gossipy, confessional, and generally awesome. The two main themes are White's life as a writer and cultural social climber and his life as a gay nymphomaniac. There are stints in Italy and Paris and a lot of name dropping. It's really entertaining but a little overwhelming, kind of like a speeding train of details and moments. It took me a ...more
i learned the value of editing in this book. white's current work can be exemplified by a quote he used in this book that alluded to his previous work: "every year New York flushes its intellectual sewers and down floats another load of crap like this pretentious doozy. c'mon, guys, can't you put together a good, old-fashioned plot for once? how about an honest day's work?" although i like white, i find his memoirs fascinating, and i think he's a talented writer, i do believe that this book coul ...more
As I started this over the summer, I realized I was pretty sure I'd read it when it first came out, in 1997 or so; so this was re-reading. I must have skimmed through quickly the first time. As usual with White, parts of it frustrated me, felt tedious or self-indulgent; parts are so repetitious (much of this ground he's covered previously). I've read a lot White, and I begin to feel that he's picked over every part of his past at least twice, once as biography and once as fiction. Yet I don't pu ...more
Stubby Girdle
Left judging White (and White's all-consuming whiteness) as, in some ways, emblematic of so much of what is corrupt about being a homo in the here-and-now (and I'm not talking about the promiscuity, FYI), yet still want to read A Boy's Own Story and still want to read his biography of Genet, and maybe being uncomfortable with those two facts. I guess the self-indulgent, constant self-belittling (which really served to further mythologize himself) White's narrator engages in worked. Totally unfoc ...more
Jasper Minton-taylor
A very sad and sincere book.
I had the impression that Edmund White's prose was too heavy for me, especially as I read A Boys Own Story when I was probably too young. That seemed to put me off reading any further EW literature. But, I bit the bullet, and was amazingly surprised how much I liked this book. I not only liked this book, I loved it.

I won't go and write a synopsis of the book, as many have already done so. All I can say is "don't let the opportunity pass you by in reading this book". A wonderful read indeed.
A masterpiece! A literary symphony of genius, pathos, and majestic beauty.
It dragged on for me. I wanted it to get good. But the self-affected ennui of the character just reminded me of my own as I tried to hang in there. It was so liberating to let it go and pick up something else.

It was just not for me. It was well written, and it told a story that needed to be told. I just wasn't ready to listen to that story at the moment I was reading it. It happens.
There are good books, there are classics and then there are those that youd rescue from your apartment when on fire. The Farewell Symphony is definitely one of those! A book that made me cry. A book that formed my view on the world. Edmund White learned me a fundamental lesson on life and society by exactly this book. ...more
Jean Hardy
I loved it but felt like it was a little jumpy at times. It made it easier to sit down and pick back up whenever, but I definitely would love to see this book expanded into two books. Even more so than the two previous books.
Pat C
There are some great parts, but this book read as if White was getting paid by the word and nobody was brave enough to edit it. Also, he describes... everything... a bit too graphically, and he has evidently tried it all!
Interesting read about gay life in the late sixties thru 80's. There is much to be said for commitment and love which, I guess, Mr. White alludes to by not giving those qualities to any of his characters.
Not my favorite Edmund White book in his trilogy. Loved "The Beautiful Room is Empty," but as in all of his writings, this is beautifully rendered. Recommended.
Explicit, but thoroughly engaging. White is a pen-wielding maverick! I'll read anything he's written.
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  • The Page Turner
  • The Spell
  • Martin and John
  • Plays Well with Others
  • Like People in History
  • Afterlife
  • The Beauty of Men
  • In the Absence of Men
  • When You Don't See Me
  • Love in a Dark Time: and Other Explorations of Gay Lives and Literature
  • You Can Say You Knew Me When
  • Sea of Tranquillity
  • How Long Has This Been Going On?
  • Edinburgh
  • Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada
  • Surprising Myself
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 Beautiful Room is Empty
A Boy's Own Story The Beautiful Room is Empty The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris The Married Man Jack Holmes and His Friend

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“Fréquenter un écrivain, le connaître de près, dans l'espoir de mieux connaître son oeuvre était un exercice inutile et même destructeur.” 1 likes
“L'amour domestique - avec ses mélodrames adultères, ses compromis douillets, ses câlins asexués, ses prises de bec mesquines - me déplaisait précisément pare qu'il puait le possible, le faisable, ce que tout le monde faisait.” 1 likes
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