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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  582 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Bastard, thief, prostitute, jailbird, Jean Genet was one of French literature's sacred monsters. in works from Our Lady of the Flowers to The Screens, he created a scandalous personal mythology while savaging the conventions of his society. His career was a series of calculated shocks marked by feuds, rootlessness, and the embrace of unpopular causes and outcast peoples. N ...more
Paperback, 728 pages
Published October 4th 1994 by Vintage (first published July 15th 1993)
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Took me a while to read but truly amazing. Full coverage of Genet's life and White is an excellent researcher. Awesome.
Edmund White explores the perverse extremes of Genet's life and separates the facts from the mythology that Genet himself fashioned. Drawing on interviews with Genet's friends, lovers, publishers, and acquaintances, and using new material from correspondence, journals, police records, psychiatric reports, and other original sources, White reveals a life animated by contradictory
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
edmund white writing a biography of genet? as fantastic and impossible as tom waits writing music to the poems of philip larkin. if one had never read -- fuck it, if one had never heard of genet, this could read as a five star work of fiction. along with caro's LBJ books, my favorite biography. read it.
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great biography on the great man himself. Jean Genet! I wouldn't invite him into my house (due that he would steal my spoons and forks), but nevertheless what a writer and what a life. People are so boring these days.
Tom Walsh
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first heard of Genet in senior HS French, along with Beckett, Ionesco and the Theater of the Absurd. I sight-checked “Saint Genet” by Sartre (its a huge work!) and saw a production of “The Balcony.” Impressed, and, at the same time, revolted, I must say I’ve never forgotten the outlier intellectual, Jean Genet. Edmund White’s bio was a splendid way to learn details about this author. Professional and factual, White does not allow the sordid aspects of Genet to get in the way of thorough resear ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographie
Ce qui est fascinant dans ce livre, c'est surtout la vie de Jean Genet, plus que la manière dont Edmund White la raconte.

Oui, la biographie est très documentée, et c'est le livre qui m'a le plus appris sur la vie de Jean Genet, sur ses fréquentations, ses voyages, la conception qu'il avait de son art, etc. C'est aussi un livre qui s'étend, au détour d'une phrase, sur les méthodes d'incarcération de l'époque, ou sur le féminisme (les figures de Violette Leduc et de de Beauvoir sont intéressantes
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
So reading Jean Genet is kind of tough, and this book pieces together his life and includes lots of analysis and details to connect the dots, adding lots of depth and layers when you decide to reread or revisit Genet's novels. Read all 600+ pages years ago, but was reminded recently.
Brandon Shire
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt
Read this many years ago, one of my favorites then, and it still is.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
I picked this up because I wanted to read a gay biography, but phew, this book was way more than I reckoned on. This book is a scholastic feat--I have no doubt that every fact in here had been combed through and verified, and there's definitely evidence that White not only collected a great deal of secondary source material, but sought out primary source material with interviews and travel. This is exactly how to go about biography as a reference.
However this is not how to go about making a biog
Kathryn Jacoby
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
I enjoyed and appreciated this biography a lot, all 635 pages of it. Sometimes I found Genet to be completely odious and frustrating (in fact, often), other times charming and very compelling, and always complex and interesting. I know nothing about Edmund White, but he clearly knows an incredible amount about literature. The writing in this book is beautiful, and I underlined several poetic, touching lines. Genet certainly lived a fascinating life, a close friend of Cocteau, Giacometti, Sartre, ...more
Tristan Goding
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Edmund White's biography of one of literature's most perverted minds is just as brilliant and as entertaining as one would expect. It's an extremely long book, full of sordid tales, but very well worth it. It turns out that Genet's life was just as twisted and dark as his books were, if not more so. I guess this would totally explain why Genet's writings feel so vivid and real. Why you can smell the stench of sweat off the bodies of the characters. It's because Genet literally did smell these pe ...more
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting but exhausting. Jean Genet's life was every bit as sordid and chaotic as his fiction, but this book was a good 200 pages longer than it needed to be.

“If he lies pressed against me, he gently twines his legs about mine and our legs are merged by the very soft cloth of our pajamas; he then takes great pains to find the right spot to cuddle his cheek. So long as he is not sleeping, I feel the quivering of his eyelids and upturned lashes against the very sensitive skin of my neck. If he
Richard Kramer
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I can give this five stars a mere hundred fifty pages in. White is an extraordinarily insightful and
empathic biographer; he regards his subject with both awe and a certain amusement at the fantastic job of self creation Genet presented to the world. It's one of those books that seems to say you to, as you the pass the room it's in -- "I'm going to be one of the best books you've ever read." I don't want to finish it as I know it's right and I don't want it to end. And White, interestingly, revea
Dec 03, 2010 rated it liked it

Ed White biographizing Jean Genet has to be given gaylit props. To both of them. Seriously, no disrespect. My minimal snodge of literary success owes them both a ton.

That being said, it is amazing how White manages to make a biography of a homo thief orphan literary genius so freakin boring. The book is over-detailed and pedantic. I understand he's trying to write an authoritative bio, and compensate for the excesses of Sartre's St. Genet... but seriously, does it have to be so ma
Bernard Mason
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing

A great biography of a fascinating figure, playwright, novelist, and citizen of the world Genet. Overcoming his humble beginnings but never leaving his bohemian bent behind Genet was a bibliophile who seized any opportunity to make a tome his own. But Genet was a social force. His writings gave many their first glimpses at what it meant to be a homosexual in his age . He was a voice for the poor and disenfranchised. He was a pacifist who protested the injustices of war . He personified the arti
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished. Yes, it took me over a year because I would get interested in reading other "short" books, then get distracted, then realize that I wanted to finish it. Well, I did and it was great. It is a very detailed biography of the French author Jean Genet. If you are all interested in his writings, and his life - this is the book for you. And while I state it is detailed, it is not boring. The tone is very conversational and easy to read and process....but the text is over 600 pages lon ...more
Magistrale. Una cavalcata durata quasi sei mesi nel mio caso, ma ne valeva sicuramente la pena. White riesce a essere appassionato e distaccato allo stesso tempo, narrativo e descrittivo. Alle vicende di una vita a dir poco sui generis accompagna analisi testuale, psicologica (ma non troppo) e anche storica. Un lavoro di una vita. Per chi già ama Genet e per chi anche solamente ne è incuriosito. Un capolavoro.
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Insights seem unfailing and details are copious and fascinating. Very fine writing characteristic of White's gorgeous fiction. Wish I hadn't let it sit on the shelf 20 years. The book offers a cultural and historical context for Genet's work, which then illuminates the work of countless francophone heirs around the world.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genet
I loved the first 75 pages and was reading it with interest when I left it inadvertently at the apartment of someone who has been uncooperative about returning it and who lives at some distance from my regularly visited parts of town! I want to get another copy (or with any luck retrieve that one i left) and continue to read this fascinating, beautifully written, minutely researched biography!
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well I can say this book was interesting. No other book out there like it. Kind of scary too. What a complicated man. Not sure if I would want him as a neigbhbor, well probably not. I don't like that much drama in my life. I rather have just a "normal" neighbor. Anyway he made for a good book though. Can't say it was boring.
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Genet, along with States of Desire: Travels in Gay America, is my favorite of Edmund White's books, certainly the most important of his non-fiction books. It's a thorough, thought-provoking, scholarly biography about one of the most important gay writers of the 20th century.
Stephen Brody
Oct 29, 2015 rated it liked it
An average rating not because of the subject but because of the biographer; Jean Genet was a sort of genius, Edmund White would like to be
May 23, 2012 added it
Fascinating man culturally and politically, not just an important gay author and film-maker. White brings a perspective that is personal and other times detached.
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, read-non-fiction
Genet, as characterised in this bio, was a decidedly unpleasant man, with great talent. I was left with a bad taste though upon completing it.
Gregorio Racadio
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Even if you are not a fan of the works of Jean Genet...this is an excellent biography on a sensational and conflicted writer that must be read.
Jason J. Blickstein
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
masterful research, brilliant editing, riveting.
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful biography of Genet, pulling out not only details that have vexed previous researchers, but telling the story of Genet's life in such beautiful and captivating language.
Caitlin Goldblatt
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hans Ostrom
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Andrew Wale
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Solid and a little over long but leaves little out x
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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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