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

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  514 ratings  ·  94 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 September 28th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA (first published March 2004)
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Ian Paganus
Jun 26, 2011 Ian Paganus marked it as to-read
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...more
K.M. Soehnlein
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...more
David Cerruti
Jan 14, 2010 David Cerruti rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...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
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...more
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...more
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
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
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
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
Kerry Muzzey
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
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
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
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
Kathleen Hagen
City Boy: My life in New York during the 60’s and 70’s, by Edmond White, narrated by Robert Blumenfeld, Produced by Audible Studios, downloaded from

The narrator of this book left something to be desired. He read very quickly without much expression. The book itself was a rather gossipy look at the author’s life in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s with some description of the AIDS crisis in the ‘80’s. The publisher’s note says the following:
In the New York of the 1970s, in the wake of Stonewall a...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.
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.
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.
"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
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...more
Oh Edmund, Edmund, Edmund.
But my sense of personal identity required that I write fiction.

What I like is writers writing about when they couldn't write.
In switching back to realism I'd somehow lost my ability to write.

I mean, come on, this stuff is ten times more useful than all that make-a-schedule-get-plenty-of-sleep-don't-force-it advice. And, as in Isherwood, there are those friends who tell it like it is:
I felt that in choosing literature as a career I'd placed all my money on a single numb
Lauren orso
slow start, but god damn i love when new york was still cool.

"When the Saturday Review went under and I returned to New York after less than a year, I felt that I'd missed out on the best parts of California by not driving out of town on the weekends to camp under the redwoods, or beside the hot sulfur-water pools near the Russian River, or in the Zen monastery an hour away. I'd wasted my time smoking in bars and complaining because San Francisco didn't enjoy exactly the same advantages as New Y...more
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,...more
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...more
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
Edmund White's City Boy is a memoir of the author's growth as a writer during the 1970s, primarily in New York. It is full of anecdotes and stories about real people--of varying degrees of fame--like Robert Wilson, James Merrill, William Burroughs, and Harold Brodkey, among many, many others. All of the characterizations are fascinating, capturing the particular impact that this or that person had on the author. These passages are the kind that inspired me to track down some of the people that w...more
I'm a fan of Edmund White as a writer--- I very much enjoyed "Forgetting Elena" and "Nocturnes for the King of Naples" ---and as a stylist. I'm also a fan of memoirs of literary New York in the 1960s and 1970s. White's "City Boy" satisfies on both counts--- well-crafted, witty, and a look at the intersection of the high-lit and gay scenes in NYC in the era when so much changed. There's some name-dropping (well, rather a lot of name dropping) and a bit of catty score-settling with backhanded comp...more
Mark Platt
City Boy is a memoir that focuses on the time between the early 1960s and early 1980s in New York City. The memoir is a rollicking read. The portrayal of the world of intellectual and cultural life in these times is a wild and enchanting journey. The emphases in the memoir are of course the lives of the gay men, and the literary and cultural world of New York in that time. The endless name-dropping can at points become tiresome, but it seems in a sense he is merely recounting the friendships tha...more
Io questo libro non lo volevo proprio comprare, non � neanche un racconto bens� una specie di autobiografia del suo primo periodo newyorkese: ma ho fatto l'errore di provare a sfogliarlo in libreria tranquillo come un insetto svolazzante e la grandiosa scrittura di White su di me fa l'effetto di una micidiale carta moschicida. S� perch� basta aprire questo libro per trovare in mezzo a ricordi personali dell'autore folgoranti descrizioni di altri scrittori ed artisti la cui opera o personalit� so...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
More about Edmund White...
A Boy's Own Story The Beautiful Room is Empty The Flaneur The Married Man Jack Holmes and His Friend

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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.” 15 likes
“In the 1970s in New York everyone slept till noon.” 1 likes
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