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A Boy's Own Story (The Edmund Trilogy #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  5,441 Ratings  ·  216 Reviews
With a new introduction by the author

‘Edmund White has crossed The Catcher in the Rye with De Profundis, J. D. Salinger with Oscar Wilde, to create an extraordinary novel. It is a clear and sinister pool in which goldfish and piranhas both swim. The subject of A Boy’s Own Story is less a particular boy than the bodies and souls of American men; the teachers and masters; th
Paperback, 218 pages
Published 1983 by Picador (first published 1982)
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(showing 1-30)
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mark monday
Edmund White portrays his younger life in a narcotic and poetic style. not exactly the most flattering self-portrait... the protagonist's travails are emotionally affecting yet he remains creepily distanced from the events and people in his own life - in particular from his equally creepy, distant, self-absorbed father. the apple does not fall far from the tree, i suppose. overall, the language is some of the most beautiful, in my experience, of all of gay fiction - rivaling even Giovanni's Room ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elegant prose describes a unique experience that hardly resembles my own. (The paramount reason I adore fiction!) In this, the truth of the matter. That there are all types, there are many stories. Sexuality is fixed only in our minds. This is no mix between "Salinger and Wilde." White is an American Alan Hollinghurst, or a bourgeois William Burroughs.
Santino Hassell
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gaylit
This is a hard book to rate, but I would give it a 3.5.

It's said to be partly autobiographical and it does read like a memoir. However, the story is not linear and at times the timeline is confusing. Progressions of events are broken up by anecdotes that are sometimes told through narrative but are other times written out scene-by-scene. The digressions are sometimes interesting but often felt unnecessary or disconnected from the main character's adolescent journey.

Despite those criticisms, the
Jean-Paul Walshaw-Sauter


(Waking Up, Hamburg, 1930 Herbert List)

Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story:

The profound voice in this novel penetrates deep into the soul in warm and sensual waves. It's passionate lyricism is mesmerizing. Whether homosexual or heterosexual, one cannot not be touched by the insight, unparalleled honesty and originality of this fiction.

Judging by this book, the average young boy can, before the age of 15, look forward to being approached for sex by:

*A 12-year-old "straight" baby jock who's really into anal
*Not one, but two separate camp counselors
*A "special" student who wanders around with a constant erection, which everyone just accepts, like, "Oh hey, it's whatshisname with his perma-boner"
*A teacher and his wife looking for a three-way
*A totally different teacher
*A female black prostitute
*A guy in a park who's actually jus
Jul 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a kind of bittersweet loneliness/excitement at sexual awakening that most gays will intrinsically understand and that White always manages to caputure so perfectly. Somehow, he romances the unromantic, charming us with images of cruising in parks and getting STD's.
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core, gay-lit
A book about a gay boy in the US during the 50's. This coming-of-age story is peppered with lyrical prose and said to be an instant hit when it was first published in 1982. Considering that the setting of the story is in the heartland of the conservative US and it was in the 50's (before the rock n roll era), the difficulties that the author of this semi-autobiographical novel went through to fight for his desire to be loved (by men including his father) are something worth knowing. As the blurb ...more
A Boy's Own Story is about a young boy's coming of age and his coming out in the 1950s. It is told in a very sensitive voice and the language used is very beautiful. At the beginning of the book there is a very explicit sex scene. I was quite surprised at that because I had never expected that. I've read a lot of books by John Irving who especially in his later work uses a lot of sex scenes as well but never anything like that.
I always enjoy reading coming of age stories including the ones set a
Shelter Somerset
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To be sixteen again, curled up on a bed devouring a novel in one afternoon! Of course, in 1982--the year ABOS was published--few gay-themed novels were readily available. I was lucky to live in an area with a public library that stocked the book. The 1980s: the apex of gay fiction (written by gay men for gay men). A celebration of the American spirit, with a homoerotic twist. The essence of individuality. Man versus society. American authors fed us the antihero (from surname-less Ishmael to drop ...more
The last of White's novels that I picked up, and to be honest I wasn't expecting any surprises. Was I stupid! I cringe when I hear this book praised as if it were the first and best thing White ever wrote...but it is very good. After the fervid manner of Nocturnes for the King of Naples (still my favorite of his books) White took to heart Isherwood's advice to write more plainly. The style he achieves in this book is a marvel. A formal chasteness that doesn't trammel lyricism, a clarity that doe ...more
Eli Easton
I read this for my lifetime challenge (1982).

I picked "A Boy's Own Story" because it's also on the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list. Unfortunately, it's another one from the list I didn't particularly enjoy. It is not a long book, but it felt long and was a chore to get through it.

The book is the memoir of a boy coming to terms (or not) with being gay. While that topic interested me, and I had no issues with the sexual content in the book, the actual writing didn't hold my interes
Sep 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An account of growing up queer when growing up queer wasn't as mainstream as it is today. I think will appeal almost universally to a gay audience, but also to anyone who has felt different or like an outsider. It also deals with some interesting father-son issues.
Craig Maxwell
A strong 3.5!

"Is it real wet and slippery in there? Some guy told me it was like a wet liver in a milk bottle"

One of the many weird and funny quotes from this book.

A boy's own story follows a young boy's story and his relationship with his family and exploring his sexuality.

It isn't what you would expect to be from the outset, which makes is quite refreshing.

I had some problems while reading the book, for example, A boy that is 15 that is goes from calling his father "daddy" in a child like m
Sep 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wasn’t what I expected to find when I picked this book. I expected a story based on a real life experience…what it turned out to be was a collection of anecdotes from a life, tied together loosely through a vaguely chronological perspective and a bunch of generously worded descriptions of people, emotions and locations.

The narrative is personal and from the foreword we learn that it is indeed an autobiographical story. The author also lets us know that he was an addict while he wrote this
Edmund White is the type of writer who freely uses words like “uxorious” in his novels without batting an eyelash. Thus it’s small wonder it was such a chore for me to plod through this book back as a young twentysomething - my little punkass simply wasn’t ready for such writerly erudition and I henceforth banned Mr. White to the shameful rank of Privileged Irrelevant Old Gay White Male Writer (PIOGWMW), basically the literary equivalent of a Sweater Queen to my judgmental young mind. But that’s ...more
Prima parte di una tetralogia autobiografica, questa storia di un giovane americano si distingue per la sua accecante bellezza in un panorama ricco di storie simili.
Il racconto scordinato, non progressivo cronologicamente, con salti improvvisi avanti e indietro nel tempo, scardina di fatto la classica struttura del bildungsroman, liberandolo dalle grinfie del genere e permettendogli di librarsi in volo. I pochi, ma sostanziosi capitoli, sono quasi delle storie indipendenti, che mostrano lo stess
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars - Really, GR, work on the half stars NOW. They are necessary.

It took me more than I expected to finish this book. To be fairly honest I struggled a bit with it, and I'm not entirely sure that I can pinpoint the why of that.

This is a coming of age story that takes place in the 50's. It seems rather autobiographical, but the timeline is kind of messy so it made it a bit difficult for me to follow it up. I mean, rather than a plotted story that had a defined beginning/ending, this was a
Josh Hereth
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt-lit
You know it was definitely good. The writing and language was truly beautiful and I honestly enjoyed the short novel. Why only three stars? Well... perhaps the writing was ~too~ beautiful. I often found myself having to go back a re-read paragraphs because I realized I wasn't really paying attention to what I was reading. I'm glad I picked it up and I fully intend on continuing with the three book series but maybe I may need to wait until the semester is over to limit my distractions.
Sep 14, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
PJ Mblt
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
3,5* Not totally in love with the prose, but some parts were beautiful and the ending really was very compelling.

Jun 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: romance
I’ve been eager to acquire this book for some time now and although I didn’t enjoy it nearly half as much as I thought I would, I’m still pleased I finally managed to read it. Here we go:

A Boy’s Own Story features a nameless protagonist living in America and struggling to discern his own identity through an intangible web of pain, loneliness, and homophobia. After a somewhat innocent commingling with a younger boy, purely for experimental (read: pleasurable) purposes, he begins to realise his fe
This book starts out well, giving an interesting evokation of a gay man's youth in the Midwest, small town America, but when the main character enters boarding school, it veers off course and I lost interest. In the end, White's story supposedly autobiographical comes off as a bit difficult to believe, as though halfway into the composition he decided his goal was not to write a realist rendering of his life, but to shock and be sensationalist. Perhaps in the time it was written, there was some ...more
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Alex
Shelves: gblt-friendly
The anguish this young man feels about his sexuality, both the coming of age and the realization that he is actually a homosexual, is so beautifully written. The author's verbal cleverness makes erotic poetry out of the most mundane features of growing up. Of course, this made me think of all the young men who don't fit in, and feel bullied and desperate as they sense the growing gulf between themselves and their age-mates.
This book is often named as a classic gay coming-of-age story. It is well-written and readable, but beyond that I found it utterly depressing. The main character seems to always be looking for love, or at least some emotional connection, but only finds sex (sometimes exploitative) and ultimately, ways to manipulate others with sex. I wanted to care about him, but by the end it was a very unlikeable fellow that I closed the book on.
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this quite a bit, and I appreciate how White resisted the impulse to describe coming of age as a linear narrative. Instead he jumps around, and things happen, not necessarily with any particular order, and it feels a lot more genuine. I love his almost flamboyant prose, and I'm very curious to read the next book in his coming of age series.
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
remember reading this over 15 years ago and being struck by the harshness and lack of empathy on the part of the 'hero'. Picked it up again a couple of days ago and in just looking at random here and there found my opinion hadn't really changed. Cold and manipulative. I do love White's style of writing but not his characters
Halvor (Raknes)
Having read a brief mention of this 1982 book and its author in a Scandinavian history of world literature from 1995, and after checking out some reviews, especially some comparing it with J. D. Sallinger's Catcher in the Rye, I started reading it with high expectations. Having endured 82 of its 217 pages I now call it quits.

I find the author pretentious, simply. And the main character is devoid of charm or even likable characteristics. Yes, he's a sissy, yes, he's confused. Yes, his social sur
David Gee
First published in 1983, the opening volume of Edmund White's three-part autobiographical novel sequence made its way onto my re-reading list after an article in Polari, the gay online magazine. This novel in the form of a memoir deals with the 1950s boyhood of his unnamed protagonist, watching his parent' marriage dissolve, moving from the country to the city with his mother and sister, beginning to discover a love of books and realizing that he is gay. The narrator is a hopeless romantic: afte ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

‘A Boy’s Own Story’ is an autobiographical depiction of Edmund White’s childhood. White’s lyrical and flowery language and his dream like and surreal style and forthright depictions of homosexuality bring to mind the French writers Marcel Proust and Jean Genet-like Genet, White is fascinated by macho, masculine men and the femininity beneath their macho veneer. It is also an exploration of a sensitive, literary adult coming to terms with his homosexuality in a world and era in which homosexualit
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"What if I could write about my life exactly as it was?"

"traffic signals burned through the rain"

"Imagination is not the consolation that people pretend. It can even be regarded as the admission of some sort of failure."

"The memory lingers over an identifying or beloved feature but dismisses the rest as just a curve, a bump, an expanse . . . But in writing one draws in the rest, the forgotten."

"I say all this by way of hoping that the lies I've made up to get from one poor truth to another may
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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)
  • The Beautiful Room Is Empty
  • The Farewell Symphony

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“For the real movements of a life are gradual, then sudden; they resist becoming anecdotes, they pulse like quasars from long-dead stars to reach the vivid planet of the present, they drift like fog over the ship until the spread sails are merely panels of gray in grayer air and surround becomes object, as in those perceptual tests where figure and ground reverse, the kissing couple in profile turn into the outlines of the mortuary urn that holds their own ashes. Time wears down resolve--then suddenly violence, something irrevocable flashes out of nowhere, there are thrashing fins and roiled, blood-streaked water, death floats up on its side, eyes bulging.” 5 likes
“There was no way to defend what I was. All I could fight for was my right to choose my exile, my destruction.” 1 likes
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