Steve Woods's Reviews > The Beautiful Room Is Empty

The Beautiful Room Is Empty by Edmund White
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's review
Mar 28, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: gay-fiction, great-novels
Read from March 31 to May 14, 2012

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 his own sexuality in a world where what he was as a person was regarded as diseased could only be described in that way.

The period is not so far removed from that in which I grew up so there is much here that I recognise, especially since I too grew up in a small country town, an outsider. I have had little to do with the so called gay community aside from casual acquaintances but I can truly see how some of the more outrageous and pathetic forms of stereotype that many of the people I knew around the gay ghetto of Sydney seemd to embody grew up. In the kind of spiritual vacuum that existed in most western civilized countries that just made what a gay person was at essence somehow wrong and classified what was a natural form of relating to them into a crime, robbed a whole generation of role models who embodied homosexual "love" as a natural expression a the humanity of some of us, to be treasured in the samw way as anything else that serves the soul. That form of idealized love it is often romanticised in gay fiction and movies or spoken about in tight circles with a great deal of yearning behind it, yearning in hope that it may actually be possible when what people so often see instead is a denial of the connection at depth between two people that love can bring. That denial rising so desperately out of the wrongness that has been forced like a straight jacket onto the minds of those who feel in love in this way.

Things may be getting better, as a result of the political activism of the gay community throughout the 70's and 80' to this current day, but there is a darker shadow that has been left as a kind of archetype that persists still for many and it is sometimes evidenced by the strident declarations that should not be necessary in a civilized society. White has been able to encapsulate the sense of all of this for me here. This is a great work of literature and of social comment. Bravo!!!

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