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The Beautiful Room Is Empty (The Edmund Trilogy #2)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,206 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
When the narrator of White's poised yet scalding autobiographical novel first embarks on his sexual odyssey, it is the 1950s, and America is "a big gray country of families on drowsy holiday." That country has no room for a scholarly teenager with guilty but insatiable stirrings toward other men. Moving from a Midwestern college to the Stonewall Tavern on the night of the ...more
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 228 pages
Published March 12th 1988 by Knopf (first published 1988)
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(showing 1-30)
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mark monday
White’s follow-up to A Boy's Own Story is an admirable effort. The language is still extraordinary. The various episodes recounted in the author’s life are certainly free from sentiment – if anything, the author leans towards self-evisceration and distance. Perhaps this absence of nostalgia is what makes the book rather off-putting. In A Boy’s Own, the style was eye-opening. In Beautiful Room, at times it feels a little too self-consciously alienated, as if edmund white himself is fearful of rev ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This is a beautifully written memoir of Edmund going to college and being as gay as it was possible to be, in fact constantly attempting to invent even gayer things to do and to be.

This book is hilarious. I think it helps to have a wicked sense of humour if you're in a despised minority (so on that logic war criminals must be a real tonic to be around.)

This is not from the book but I remember a news programme from way back, when Aids was at its height. The Queen visited some hospital or anothe
Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edmund White's writing style is more or less a series of incredibly vivid vignettes linked together through simple chronology. And while the individual events, memories and musings are often beautiful in and of themselves, it has a curiously monotone effect after a while, almost like banging the same chords on a piano over and over--not even the most gorgeous notes can sustain their impact if piled on top of each other with nothing between to showcase their individual merit. That said, White's n ...more
Megan Baxter
When I went to get this book out of the library, I noticed that one of the subject headings was Stonewall. The timing seemed apt, as the Stonewall movie had just come out, with all the criticism of both white-washing and making the main character cisgendered. Neat, I thought! Maybe this book (fictional) will be a corrective to that.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantim
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i cried on the subway.
a lot of people discredit this book, saying it is not a novel, that it is a thinly veiled autobiography, that the narrator is hard to love. all of these things may be true, but take away from the fact at hand: this is really good writing. the first time "searing" has ever come to mind to describe something i've read. from "i did not travel." on page 223, i don't think i breathed at all while reading the last six pages. sadly, the beautiful room is, in fact, empty - thank go
Aug 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This novel, although I suppose it is usually categorized under gay fiction, is an excellent coming of age novel that picks at the conservative Midwestern society of the late 50s and ends up describing both the promises and failures of New York City in the early to mid 60s. If I had discovered this book in high school, I would have fallen in love with all of the characters and over-identified with their struggle to live as their true selves, although I would have been horrified by the anonymous b
Roof Beam Reader (Adam)
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988) by Edmund White:
Sep 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
Titling your novel "The Beautiful Room is Empty" is really asking for it, and this book unfortunately lives up to the insult of its title. The luminous, mordantly insightful writing style White is known for is in full flower here, but it all unspools across the page with no purpose, no heart. The deeply moving emotional bedrock you usually feel grounding you so powerfully while wandering through White's patented haze of romantic, vaguely connected set pieces seemed totally lacking here. The endi ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
White's vignettes are raunchy, personally implicating, but they're not particularly interesting. He loves an overwrought metaphor and the whole book comes packaged in this wistful voice that has become the standard for the queer memoir. Judy Garland, Greco-Roman mythology-- it's here and it shouldn't be. He gives his types lavish, over the top dialogue, but richly drawn caricatures are still caricatures. Whole experiences get funneled into established outlines for what gay people were supposed t ...more
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tangential story: while in college, I once got furious (but didn't say anything for fear of an outburst) when a classmate said that Alan Ginsburg was responsible for the sort of madness, anxiety, and depravity he wrote about in poems like "Howl." She just couldn't accept that society could marginalize and disenfranchise people to the point where they were capable of such madness.

"The Beautiful Room is Empty" reminds me a lot of "Howl" -- it's a story of a man who didn't and couldn't fit the stan
You know how you can be doing some mundane task and all of a sudden a random memory just surfaces? For a while you are just reliving that moment and maybe you even smile because that line between the physical and mental world is blurred enough to allow you to.

That’s sort of the effect this book has left on me.

The Beautiful Room Is Empty is one of the few books that left me with very distinct scenes, as if Edmund White’s memories are now mine.

Edmund White is a very talented writer; I think tha
The title is not a line from a scene in the book. Perhaps it's a warning?

I'm no great fan of autobiography but this is one of the best tooled autobiographies. I've ever read. My problem with the book is that it seems to meander through comonplace events that have been told in more engaging ways elsewhere. No matter how nice the cup, poor coffee is still poor coffee. The writing here is excellent and at times brilliant but the story itself is unengaging.

While it deals with one man's journey from
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You got to atleast give Edmund White credit for crafting such strong visuals regarding sex and the male form: "revealing a hairless chest marbled by blue veins and decorated like a piece of wedding cake with two candle sockets in pink frosting--the erect nipples" (pg. 178).
"..untidy Minnie Mouse with big thighs of mushroom pallor." (pg. 175).
"the tan line suggested poolside swimsuit, frosted glass, sunglasses....But the hickory-hard straining of this cock upward spelled animal--a straight line
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I felt like I needed some gay literature in my life and was hoping for a dramatized historical fiction that would be perhaps heartwrenching or informative or something. The character was neither likeable, lovable, hatable, or commendable. I had a hard time reading the book because I didn't care what happened to the main character, or even the supporting characters. The last 50 pages were good. All the others I felt were on the verge of poor writing. At least foggy - I felt like the plot had no d ...more
Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-usa
The second novel in Edmund White's trilogy "The Beautiful Room is Empty" explores oppression. Again one is moved by his intelligence, humour, anger and poetic language, which I will let speak for itself:
"We listened to an old scratchy recording of a Bach unaccompanied cello suite. The music, so spare, so passionate, seemed at any moment about to break into speech. It cut with precision into the big soft folds of time that nearly smothered us."
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For many gay 'men of a certain age,' this book is all-too familiar on various levels. Sometimes dark, sometimes sexy, sometimes sad. As social acceptance of gays moves forward, this book will, I hope, become a historical record of the not-so-good old days.
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deste segundo livro não gostei tanto como o primeiro, muito por culpa de uma má revisão, abundando as gralhas; o tradutor não é o mesmo e o lirismo do primeiro livro não é alcançado com esta tradução.
Tim Hickman
Edmund White's coming-out novel explores the youth and young adulthood of a mid-western gay man in the 1950s and 60s. It is amazing to see how much attitudes toward gay and lesbian Americans has changed in the last 50 years, as the predominate attitude toward homosexuality seen in the book is as a sickness treated by endless psychiatrists and mental hospitals. I'm not a fan of White's prose, earthbound and narcissistic, but the book redeems itself somewhat in the end, introducing the Stonewall R ...more
Sometimes I have the feeling that we're in one room with two opposite doors and each of us holds the handle of one door, one of us flicks an eyelash and the other is already behind his door, and now the first one has but to utter a word and immediately the second one has closed his door behind him and can no longer be seen. He's sure to open the door again for it's a room which perhaps one cannot leave. If only the first one were not precisely like the second, if he were calm, if he would only p ...more
Xavier Guillaume
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt-themed
The Beautiful Room is Empty is a well-written coming of age story of a gay white middle-class male in the 1950s. What I especially love about the novel is that it is a time capsule of a time and place I have never experienced in its plethora of pea coats, surprisingly affordable New York City apartments, and silly songs playing on the radio like, "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake." I imagine people who grew up in the 1950s would feel a constant stream of nostalgia while reading the ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second part of Edmund White's fictionalised autobiography on adolescence, young adulthood of a gay man in the 1950s and 1960s. Shows how far we've come and how far we still have to go.
Tex Reader
3.5 of 5 stars – Intelligent Prose, But Still Left Me A Bit Empty.

Like Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story, this was an interesting study of a gay YA, conveyed through his own narrative story. This also had similar issues as book 1, but not as much, so I grew to like book 2 a bit more.

I actually appreciated the prose more in this one – similar beautiful phrasings, but this time more realistic because it didn't overstretch as much. I thought the prose was at its best describing the emotions of falli
Lewis Smith
look for pbk copy to reread
Nicely turned phrases and descriptions.
Not a novel.
Great title.*

Considering I can find only half a dozen works by him, I do wonder why he is so famous. Like other autobiographies, eg. Fry's, the author is rather unlikeable. As with other books I read recently, I have no more sympathy left for needing to have sex with literally hundreds of different men, as if straight people had that option. As with "Surprising Myself", the protagonist moves to NY and wastes time there reading and fucking, but n
Steve Woods
This is the second of White's trilogy that I have read, one to go and I am truly looking forward to it. The first A Boys Own Story left me breathless, I have very rarely seen anyone who can work with the English language to such effect. There is not a wasted word anywhere and the strength of characterisation is such that I felt much of the time, so very identified with the main character. Visceral and disturbing at times, it is certainly those things but then the agony of this boys struggle with ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, read-in-2013
I think I give White the benefit of the doubt because (a) "City Boy" is so great; and (b) he's a queermo, like me. But in point of fact, neither of his novels that I've read were really that fabulous. Maybe this is a lil' whiff of my latent snobbery coming out, but I found this and "A Boy's Own Story" to be glorified erotica, rather than a measured exploration of queer subjectivity in the mid-century cultural and political American context. And I can't figure if I'm a snob or if White toots his ...more
Dusty Myers
Nov 15, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It’s a shame that White is our Updike, which is to say that he’s our learned and well read and omnipresent white-male writer born decades ago whom we are meant to revere solely because of his status and age and productivity. It means that I have to read the final book of the trilogy, The Farewell Symphony, which I’m hoping to god is a lot more palatable.

The problem with these novels is that they aren’t novels. They’re memoirs labeled as novels at a time, I imagine, when the memoir wasn’t as mar
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who am I to give Edmund White anything but 5 stars?

Yet this book starts with stunning prose, then becomes a dutiful laundry list of what happened next until we hit Stonewall. It feels distant (retrospective) but I think it has more to do with White working through his own story. I wonder what he's said.

I suspect Our Young Man > is the novel that works through the thoughts and themes of this part of his life, but, of course, this isn't entirely autobiographical. (Although I probably suspect
Mel Bossa
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I'd read a collection of short stories, Skinned Alive, by Edmund White, but never a full novel. Now, I want more.

I thought this would be a little pretentious, you know, sort of "here are the tortured and self-centered thoughts of an Ivy League, white male", and it was a little, at times, but where White surprised me, was in his unabashed honesty and ability to turn his very critical eye on himself too.

And it's such a pleasure to read someone who has phenomenal wit, knowledge, culture
Kevin Bertolero
White is so brutally honest about what growing up gay was like in the pre-Stonewall era, so much so that it actually makes for a pretty depressing read. This book is so unashamedly proud, even when it has no right to be, and I think this is why I found it so compelling. The protagonist documents his affairs with a number of men, and with each one, I can see him slowly figuring out who he is, and where his community is, even if those around him fail to see these changes happening. At the end of t ...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...

Other Books in the Series

The Edmund Trilogy (3 books)
  • A Boy's Own Story
  • The Farewell Symphony

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“Sometimes I have the feeling that we're in one room with two opposite doors and each of us holds the handle of one door, one of us flicks an eyelash and the other is already behind his door, and now the first one has but to utter a word ad immediately the second one has closed his door behind him and can no longer be seen. He's sure to open the door again for it's a room which perhaps one cannot leave. If only the first one were not precisely like the second, if he were calm, if he would only pretend not to look at the other, if he slowly set the room in order as though it were a room like any other; but instead he does exactly the same as the other at his door, sometimes even both are behind the doors and the the beautiful room is empty." Franz Kafka (in a letter to Milena Jesenska)” 12 likes
“Suffering does make us more sensitive until it crushes us completely.” 6 likes
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