Jamie's Reviews > A Boy's Own Story

A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White
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's review
Mar 06, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: lgbt, read-in-2012
Read from February 21 to 29, 2012 — I own a copy

An enjoyable little bildungsroman, from the vantage point of a gay child/teenager from a wealthy but broken family. White's style inclines to the good, but he can be a bit too 'knowing' at times--his cultural reference points seem to be his own, rather than his protagonist's, at times. I realize this is at least in part a loosely autobiographical novel, but there were moments where I'd find myself thinking "Does this 13 year old boy really know anything about Proust?" and those moments did take me out of the story a bit. Also, more sex! More sex! The book opens with a naughty scene and then that whole sexual awakening narrative drops off until nearly the end of the novel, when our hero uses his...oral skills...to pull a Judas Iscariot. That resolution seemed to me a bit too pat, a bit irrelevant to what had come before.

These are all petty quibbles, though. It was a fun read, but not particularly weighty. I don't know much about White, but I suppose my baseline assessment would be that it felt like a solid debut novel from a young novelist. Still plan to explore his body of work further, though.
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06/07 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Alejandro I need to reread this one, since it's been a while, but this wasn't his debut. Forgetting Elena was his first published novel, which is a very different affair than his other work. I prefer the last book in his autobiographical trilogy--The Farewell Symphony--and his book of short stories Skinned Alive. Both really good.

Jamie Oh, thanks for the recs! One of my goals this year is to broaden my gay (male)-fiction experience. For whatever reason, I've got a decent base in lesbian lit, but had somehow avoided a lot of the big boys in the genre. Knocked out Isherwood, Proust, "Death in Venice," Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Neil Bartlett, and some more Hollinghurst over the past year, but am trying to keep that ball rolling. I'll have to check out this autobiographical trilogy!

Alejandro Andrew Holleran's Dancer from The Dance is required reading . . . as is Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin.

message 4: by John (new)

John David For what it's worth, I found "The Beautiful Room Is Empty" to be much, much better. For some reason, everything else has disappointed me. He seemed to get more treacly and self-indulgent as time went on.

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