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Edmund White: The Burning World Hardcover – November 17, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (November 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312199740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312199746
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,689,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A vivid prose stylist and a premier chronicler of gay life, gay desire and gay liberation, Edmund White has achieved renown as a novelist and as a nonfiction writer. A Boy's Own Story helped define the coming-out novel; the decades of journalism collected in The Burning Library gave gay male America a detailed picture of itself, sometimes angry, often celebratory. And his colossal biography of Jean Genet gave Anglophone readers new access to the rule-smashing French author. This authorized biography follows White's life from his birth in 1940, in Cincinnati, to his current residence in Paris. Barber's (Fragments of the European City) fluid prose demonstrates intense research, accompanied by a tendency to stay close to his subject's point of view, with some passages appearing to be paraphrased from interviews with White. The biography touches on White's array of friends and famous allies, among them Robert Mapplethorpe, Susan Sontag, James Merrill and Adam Mars-Jones. White immersed himself in the gay New York of the 1970s; his move to Paris in 1983 divides his adult life neatly in half. Barber's account of the Paris years is slower pacedAand more revealingAbut sexual encounters, social misadventures and literary accomplishments in both cities get adequate coverage, as do White's months on an idyllic Turkish island and his entanglements in Brown University's campus politics. White's later fiction records the awful impact of HIV, and Barber rises to painful eloquence in describing the last days of White's beloved partner, Hubert Sorin, who died of AIDS in Morocco in 1994. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Publisher

"Barber's fluid prose demonstrates intense research, accompanied by a tendency to stay close to his subject's point of view, with some passages appearing to be paraphrased from interviews with White...and Barber rises to painful eloquence in describing the last days of White's beloved partner, Hubert Sorin, who died of AIDS in Morocco in 1994." --Publishers Weekly

"Edmund White is the wizard of American fiction. By turns and at once, his work is ecstatic and elegant, saucy and transcendent. This first look behind the curtain catches him at the controls--a writer whose human complexities intrigue, and whose artistry remains elusive, enthralling, essential. The Burning World crackles and gleams--a fascinating biography!" -J. D. McClatchy, Poet and Critic

"One of the best lives I have read in years. Time and again I found myself provoked not just to a new understanding of White's life and work, but to a fresh consideration of how for a gay person to fully identify as gay today sparks creativity. But only if that identity is seen not as limiting, but as contributing to the larger culture. One must see oneself as White clearly does: just as he is always but never American, so also his self-understanding, entirely gay is always more than gay." --Douglas Shand Tucci, author of The Art of Scandal : The Life and Times of Isabella Stewart Gardner

"It is, in truth, the writer and not the writing that is extraordinary--in the purity with which he has maintained a life in desire. ...Barber has written a brilliant book in celebration of this rare quality, and in places--I think particularly of his harrowing account of Hubert Sorin's death from Aids in Morocco--he rises to heights of which his subject (and friend) must surely be proud." --Independent on Sunday

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Reed on December 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Edmund White: The Burning World, by Stephen Barber
Edmund White's iconic status within a gay ethos extends far beyond those defined boundaries to his acceptance by the literary world as one of the major writers of our times. White's elegantly stylised novels, each employing a language particular to a time and place, as well as his non-fiction preoccupations as biographer to Genet and Proust, have led to the creation of an integral body of work. White's writings are as individual as they are vital to our reading of mortality in the late 20th century.
Stephen Barber's exceptionally well-pitched critical biography of White is both a work of literary merit and the ideal companion to its subject's life and achievements. Barber has for several years been one of our best critical writers on the nature of the modern city. The Burning World is creative criticism at its best, and Barber's understanding of the city and its sensations as determining creative language is central to his thesis on White's fiction.
During his formative writing years in a 1960's New York, White wrote five unpublished novels before Forgetting Elena was accepted for publication in 1972. Barber interestingly points to Fire Island being the inspirational site to this work, and to White's obsession with islands in general as representing the precinct in which to set a novel. Two more of his books, Nocturnes For The King of Naples, and Caracole, were to be less specifically identified with place, but to occupy undisclosed insular settings.
Barber rightly sees White's first four novels, with their rich textured poetic prose, as 'a unique document of the imagination in its compulsive interaction with the human body.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a great literary biography. It combines solid research into the life and work of Edmund White, one of the most imaginative and passionate gay writers of the last half century, with the kind of human touches that bring biography alive. Stephen Barber moves effortlessly from White's life to his work and back again, painting a fascinating portrait not only of White's own adventures and career, but providing the reader with profound insights into the bigger picture of gay life and culture in America and Paris, from Stonewall to AIDS and beyond. The discussion of White's writing stays fresh and relevant to his literary ideals and the context of his life - it makes you want to go back and read his books all over again. The book is also fairly balanced - it avoids taking sides in the bitter debates that have raged over what gay male culture and identity should be, and instead tries to present a range of different perspectives and possibilities. Readable, entertaining, informative and thought-provoking - I highly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "jdtx" on June 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My first impression, upon picking up this biography of Edmund White, was that the Stephen Barber's writing is terribly over-wrought -- the introduction of the book, in which Barber tries to explain White's importance to contemporary literature, is some of the purplest prose I've read in a long time.
But Barber's writing improves markedly when he begins telling the story of White's life. The most interesting aspect of the book, to me, is Barber's descriptions of White's early fictional efforts, and his writing habits; you'll read about the novel White wrote in high school; you'll learn that White was often drunk or stoned when he wrote his early novels, and that even to this day White generally limits himself to writing a few pages per day in the expensive blank books he purchases from a Paris stationer. You'll read about White's encounters with writers as diverse as Michel Foucault, Vladimir Nabokov (who named White as one of his favorite young novelists, much to White's surprise), and Michael Ondaatje (whose own writing habits are similar to White's). Your impression, gleaned from White's novels, that he is an extremely decent person who is quite fallible but gifted with an immense talent, will be confirmed by Barber's account. Also surprising is Barber's description of how sexually voracious White was from a very early age. Apparently White felt the need to tone down his self-depiction in "A Boy's Own Story," to make his character seem more representative of typical adolescents.
In summary, this is a worthy biography of White, once you get past the somewhat amateurish writing style (which is why I'm giving it only four stars). But you shouldn't order it unless you're very interested in White -- otherwise, you will learn enough about White from his own novels.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By jfriedl@emory.edu on February 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have read the White "Trilogy" of the nameless narrator navigating us through the second half of the American 20th century (A Boy's Own Story, Beautiful Room, and Farewell). White's books peeked my curiosity and kept me riveted with their metaphors, honesty, and detailed attention to those peculiar specifics that either comply with our self image (bringing us to tomorrow) or shatter our ego (enflaming our insecurity). We wonder just how close White's actual life is to the narrator's as we are jealously appalled by his freedom, and tragically hopeful about what will happen to him next. This biography, if not as beautifully weaved and metaphoric as White's own writing, does reconcile the life of the "I" in his novels, the complexity of the language and the author (speaking in a Barthesian sense), and White's own experiences as we finally align the tragic hero and his real life companions. This book is not a way to be introduced to White, but if you know him and his writings then it is illuminating and resourceful and a pleasure to read with the sheer quanitity of it's detail and thoroughness.
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