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City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  793 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Groundbreaking literary icon Edmund White reflects on his remarkable life in New York in an era when the city was economically devastated but incandescent with art and ideas. White struggles to gain literary recognition, witnesses the rise of the gay rights movement, and has memorable encounters with luminaries from Elizabeth Bishop to William Burroughs, Susan Sontag to Ja ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 4th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA (first published March 2004)
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David Cerruti
Oct 31, 2009 David Cerruti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers, and New Yorkers over 50
City Boy is about Edmund White's life in New York City from the early 1960's through the early 1980's. The main themes are:

1. Writing and publishing. This was the most interesting. Some writers are supportive of others. Some are bitchy.

2. Gay life, before and after Stonewall. White is more than candid. He is HIV positive, and a founder of the Gay Men's Health Crisis.

3. Gossip. He must have known damn near everyone in the arts. The name-dropping doesn’t stop with Peggy Guggenheim, Jasper Johns, S
Ian "Marvin" Graye
I haven't read this yet, but I've read the first sentence and I love it:

"In the 1970's in New York everyone slept till noon."

Albeit for different reasons to Edmund White, this describes my weekends in the 1980's.
I went out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in search of live bands, for the love of it, but also so that I could write about them.
I was rarely in bed before 3am.
If I was, I hadn't got home yet.
However, the next day, I would wake up and indulge myself on a can of coke and a ham an
K.M. Soehnlein
Jul 09, 2010 K.M. Soehnlein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fans of Edmund White will savor this memoir of the 1970s in New York, when the city was decrepit but artists and writers thrived. The author fills in some of the gaps of his career -- the publication of his earliest novel, Forgetting Elena (have you ever wondered how it came to be hailed by Vladimir Nabokov?), the way in which he came to write The Joy of Gay Sex, which, it turns out, everyone warned him about.

Sex, gossip, the strivings of artists on the make -- it all blends together in a narra
White suggests in the brief Q&A following this memoir that autobiography should be concerned strictly with the "truth." I found this a peculiar invocation, having just finished reading Isherwood's "Christopher and His Kind," where Isherwood invested half his time in the metatext of life writing-in other words, was constantly conscious that memory is faulty and one's perspective on an event is never true, but is one lens on that happening among many. Isherwood goes so far as to refer to his e ...more
This book is Edmund White’s delightful memoir about his life in New York (and a few other cities sprinkled in the mix to keep things interesting) in the late sixties and seventies. New York was a shit hole but that made it affordable. This affordability made it an attractive destination for creative people who wanted a place to be free to explore art, music and writing. It was literally bursting at the seams with creative and interesting people and in addition to causing a great flood of amazing ...more
Jun 27, 2009 Tosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i never read his fiction, but pretty much read his non-fiction - and for whatever reason I just haven't picked up any of his novels. Saying that about my eccentricity about his work, White is a superb writer. I am a big fan of memoir writing, and White has that classic quality regarding that genre. New York City was a different type of place as of now. And White captures the gay subculture around that world, yet he ignores certain aspects of "general" or popular pop culture that was taking place ...more
Blake Fraina
In Alan Bennett's play The History Boys, when the dimmest of the students is asked to define history, he replies, "It's just one [expletive] thing after another." Reductive? Perhaps. Funny? Certainly. But also, quite true.

And it happens to be the reason I tend to avoid non-fiction...memoirs in particular. At least when one is writing a biography (particularly about someone who is already dead) or writing about history, the author has enough distance to give the story some shape and ascribe it so
Mar 04, 2010 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
City Boy, My life in New York during the 1960’s and ‘70s by Edmund White 2009; read in Feb 2010
I appreciated Edmund Whites clean concise writing. His objective observations about self, situations, and politics sometimes challenged my own preconceptions, but were enlightening. And I came to admire his conclusions. The name dropping was sometimes trying but more because I didn’t know these famous people and their works as well as he. Overall I came to a better understanding of a history and place
Well, I finally managed to wrest time from the holiday schedule to read the last few pages. I tend to like White's writing even when he is fictionalising his own story. Here he is in outright auto-biography mode and his voice is both very personal and unfailingly kind even when he is truthful about people's foibles and flaws. As Irving says in the blurb, this is a book for anyone interested in the nature of friendship and it is a fabulous glimpse of the New York of the sixeventies and early eigh ...more
Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter
Edmund White's memoir entitled “City Boy” is many things rolled into one and packed with humour, wit and erudition. First, it is a literary delight with a myriad of sketches of writers, artists and musicians. Second, it is a chronicle of the social development of the city of New York in the years of poverty and decay, but also of the years of sexual freedom in which the the gay community (re)defined itself, as well as being a hymn to friendship and the difference between friendship and love. Fin ...more
Feb 04, 2013 Kerry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't finish it. I wanted to read it because I had heard that White was a good writer, and because I thought it would be a documentation of life in NYC in the 60s and 70s. Bt it was really more a narrative about the author's career start and I wanted more detail about life in NYC during that time period. The thing is, when he finally gave you some overview or detail, it was uninteresting. And his story kept leaping back and forth: there was no focus, no continuum, no sense of the emotional ...more
Igor S
Jan 12, 2015 Igor S rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loads of very enjoyable name-dropping
"In the 1970s in New York everyone slept till noon." Thus begins this book and it's a gold mine for any sociologist interested in the artistic culture of New York in the 1960s and 1970s. It also will be eye-opening for younger gay men who want to know what they missed: for those two decades represent the exhilarating breakout of gay political freedom (1960s) and by almost any reckoning the high point to-date in gay sexual freedom (1970s). In the decades since, there has been of course a tragic r ...more
Jun 06, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I understand that Edmund White has written a series of novels based closely on his own experiences. This book is an outright memoir of his life as a young man in NYC from the early sixties through the early eighties. I enjoyed it quite a lot for several reasons. White creates a wonderful sense of time, place, and character. During the period he describes, NYC was a dirty, violent place that is almost unimaginable now. But it was also home to a fascinating creative class, whom White knew and desc ...more
Nov 03, 2009 Rachel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, first-reads
This book just did not hold my interest at all. I wouldn't have finished it but I received it through the First Reads program so I felt like I had to. City Boy is author Edmund White's account of his years in New York as a struggling author. I didn't feel any emotion coming out of him. It felt like he was just writing a laundry list account of his activities and so it was hard to connect with him. Also, he name dropped a lot and it was clear that I was supposed to be impressed but I only recogni ...more
Oct 17, 2009 Nina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Edmund White's City Boy is an earthy yet elegant memoir of a gay man in New York City during the 1960s and 70s. His exuberant descriptions of gay bars and baths capture the pre HIV/AIDS scene. With fluid prose, White also invites the reader into the literary and art world of those decades. He is a gifted storyteller, generous in sharing his tales of legendary writers and artists. While White's book contains the sexual candor associated with his previous work, it also reveals a young writer's asp ...more
Jan 19, 2012 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wildly uneven and curious in its structure, despite White's engaging voice providing some forward (if roundabout) motion. As a gay man, I very much enjoyed White's first-person narrative of NYC's Gay Sex in the 70s. Perhaps like those tricks in the trucks and on the piers, the book feels very episodic; it doesn't really follow a linear chronology. As a result it's difficult to keep some of the roommates and friends and lovers clearly identified from one another--but in some respects, that's how ...more
I look for a memoir to immerse me in the life of the author so that I can really see things from his point of view. Admittedly Edmund White's life is very different from mine. He is a gay man who really enjoys city life. I'm a straight woman who has gravitated to a very rural area. Still, there should have been a human hook but there wasn't. I simply could not slog through several hundred pages of picking up tricks, shallow party descriptions and name dropping. I finally gave up at page 158 so i ...more
I really wanted to love this book. It started out really fine with apt descriptions of the times in NYC and some nostalgia for those of us that lived there. It became very episodic for me, with namedropping and terse bios of what happened to those people. White is a great writer and I can only wonder with all these connections why did it take him so long to get his larger works published? Too Bitchy?
In all fairness I am awed by many of his other works.
Jul 20, 2010 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
I love memoirs. Edmund White's accounts of New York in the 60-70's had small moments of being a bit too "name-droppy" and therefore I got lost in his accounts every now and then. Edmund wrote about what it meant to be gay in New York in these eras with tales about other authors, artists, heirs and their overriding influence over each other. Hard book to read without having your notebook next to you so you can jot down all the literary references made here.
Oct 02, 2009 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was wrong to say a few weeks ago that I don't anticipate White's new books. I should say that while his latest novels make no appeal to me, he's still an amazing memoirist. This book offers a clef to the semi-autobiographical The Farewell Symphony. Just when you think you've heard all his stories, he drops new details. Like Maria/Marilyn's real-life German dad being a Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust-denier. Good lord!
George Ilsley
Jul 25, 2014 George Ilsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, writing
Edmund White is a kind of mysterious marvel. One has to wonder when he has the time to do all that he does. This account of life in New York (he moved to Paris in 1983) is gossipy and intimate; and offers as well historical insights on how much the city as changed (for example, writers and artists used to be able to afford to live there). Now, Manhattan is a city of bankers.
Feb 08, 2010 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent snapshot of gay New York in the 60s and 70s, but White's penchant for name-dropping does wear after a while. That said, there's a lot to recommend this book in the literature how-to arena.

If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!
Oct 11, 2011 Phlip rated it liked it
Starts out well enough but about half way through it turns into a plodding, name-droppy, chronicle. Interesting as a primary source of the cultural history he narrates, however. And well written with insight into particular personae as well as personae types of the age.
Ted Lewis
Leave it to Edmund White to write a book about gay life in NYC in the 60s and 70s and turn it into a pretentious slog.
Mike Clarke
Reimagining a history.....New York in the 1970s was a 'grungy, dangerous, bankrupt city...' where 'everyone slept till noon.' Telling how the first few lines can pretty much sum up a book almost to the point of needing to go no further. As an isolated, closeted teenager living in the 'burbs I devoured Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story. I couldn't risk Gay Times, let alone porno mags, as if even buying one would somehow be readable on my face or transmitted by bigoted aliens to my family, schoolfr ...more
Dec 21, 2013 Aitziber rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in the gay writer scene of the 60s and 70s
This one is a tough book to rate. Edmund White devotes much of the book to namedropping and gossip, which can be a complete delight if you know which famous figure he's talking about (oh, those 10 pages about Vladimir Nabokov--I could've read a whole book like that!) or mind-numbing if you don't. The sections about his stays in Venice and The People to Know in Venice were hard to get through.

City Boy is my first White book. I came to him through Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On, as White wa
Jun 09, 2010 Grady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Commentary on a Period Becomes a Novel

For openers to readers who opt to add another book by Edmund White to their library comes this quotation from John Irving: 'Edmund White, a master of the erotic confession, is our most accomplished triathlete of prose - a novelist, biographer, and memoirist. Truly, no other American writer of my generation manages to be all three with such personal passion and veracity.' Strong praise from one of the country's finest writers, but in this reader's opinion,
Ed White describes life in New York City in the 60s and 70s. His status as both gay man and writer are key to his experiences and how he describes them.

The book is more about other people - his friends, lovers, etc - than it is about him. Many famous people feature, including Susan Sontag, William Burroughs, and James Merrill among many other. The book is also more about the signs of the times than it is about him - he describes how the influx of gay men and writers into New York turned it into
At the back of my edition of 'City Boy' is a Q & A with the author where he is asked if after four autobiographical novels and one actual autobiography whether another set of memoir is necessary. The answer is both yes and no.

In actual fact, ‘City Boy’ is is not just another White memoir but is a memoir of New York City during the 60s and 70s, a remarkable time in the city’s history. It is difficult to imagine New York back then from today’s vantage. In the 60s and 70s, New York was a bankr
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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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“When we are young... we often experience things in the present with a nostalgia-in-advance, but we seldom guess what we will truly prize years from now.” 20 likes
“I was lucky to live in New York when it was dangerous and edgy and cheap enough to play host to young, penniless artists. That was the era of "coffee shops" as they were defined in New York—cheap restaurants open round the clock where you could eat for less than it would cost to cook at home. That was the era of ripped jeans and dirty T-shirts, when the kind of people who are impressed by material signs of success were not the people you wanted to know.” 11 likes
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