December 2, 2014

Dec 2

A Boy’s Own Story

Edmund White


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SOLD: $1,500

First edition. Most of White’s annotations are biographical, drawing connections between the events and characters in the story and his own life. “This became my best-known novel,” he tells us at the outset. “When I wrote it I was still a drunk, and I’d ‘take a rest’ after each chapter.” He “really did have a marionette show” on his third birthday. “My father owned a summer house – and a speedboat—on Walloon Lake, Michigan.” On the Wellingtons (p.114), White notes: “Steve Turner and his father, who died young.” The character “Howie = Jack McQuaid.” “Chuck = Tom McGuune.” A Boy’s Own Story formed the first part of a trilogy, followed by The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997). But White had been writing about gay themes and advocating on behalf of equal rights since the 1970s. In 1977 he co-authored The Joy of Gay Sex and in 1980 published the seminal States of Desire: Travels Through Gay America (1980). The same year that A Boy’s Own Story appeared, and the AIDS crisis spiraled out of control, White helped form the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York. He remains at the forefront of the battle for free expression among gay men and women. In a recent review of books on the fight for marriage equality, White wonders whether gays are in danger of suppressing aspects of their identities in order to win acceptance from the “mainstream.” “We are told that Americans are accepting ‘gays and lesbians…as normal, loving, decent members of our lives and our communities.’ I shouldn’t quibble, but as a gay man in his seventies I don’t quite recognize in that description most of the flamboyant, creative, edgy, promiscuous, deeply urban gays I have known.” Perhaps such a notion is “a small enough price. I can’t decide.”

WHITE, Edmund (b. 1940). A Boy’s Own Story. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1982. 8o. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.



© Katheryn Hamilton

Edmund White has written over twenty-five books. He is perhaps best known for his biography of the French writer Jean Genet, for which he won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of a trilogy of autobiographical novels: A Boy’s Own Story, The Beautiful Room is Empty, and The Farewell Symphony. His novel, The Married Man, takes place in France, the United States, and Morocco, and deals with the intimate psychological repercussions of AIDS. He has written brief biographies of Marcel Proust and Arthur Rimbaud and a book about unconventional Paris called The Flaneur. His most recent published works of fiction are ChaosHotel de DreamJack Holmes and His Friend, and the recent nonfiction book City Boy, a memoir about New York in the 1970s. His memoir, Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris, came out in 2014. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an officer in the French Order of Arts and Letters, and a winner of the France-Amériques Award. He teaches writing at Princeton and lives in New York City.