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Forgetting Elena: A Novel Paperback – October 4, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 4, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067975573X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679755739
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Combining glittering wit, an atmosphere dense in social paranoia, and a breathtaking elegance and precision of language, White's first novel suggests a hilarious apotheosis of the comedy of manners. For, on the privileged island community where Forgetting Elena takes place, manners are everything. Or so it seems to White's excruciatingly self-conscious young narrator who desperately wants to be accepted in this world where everything from one's bathroom habits to the composition of "spontaneous" poetry is subject to rigid conventions.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
A vanished gay culture and setting (recognizably The Pines in the 1960s) transformed into an icy fantasy, with details borrowed from the ceremonial court life of ancient Japan and Java. An amnesiac narrator finds himself in an imaginary island society, at once funny and horrific, where refined, ever-changing rules govern the slightest action. He must somehow deduce his own identity from the enigmatic offhand remarks of others around him while not giving himself away.
Though infused with a gay sensibility, this is not a "gay book". In it, obsessive aestheticism and obsessive love face each other, gradually becoming deadly enemies.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
White's first novel is a fascinating study of an obsessive mind in action. The narrator, who lives on an island that in some ways resembles Fire Island, is a compulsive amnesiac who is apparently terrified to admit to anyone that he doesn't know who he is or what his relationship is to the people around him. It is clear he would feel embarassed if anyone found out. But as he attempts to determine his status in this highly stratified society, it is clear that its values are very much a part of his subconscious.
Truly a book in which form reflects content, the style of the writing is self-conscious and always exquisitely phrased. This book is not for everyone. For me, however, this novel is one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. It is simultaneously a mystery, a comedy of manners and a haunting love story.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Mayhew on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a classic novel, and one that works on several levels. A satire of Fire Island gay culture? Yes, but it works even if you have no idea that this is what the book is supposed to be "about," as I didn't when I first read it years ago. The prose is seamlessly perfect, and the device of the amnesiac narrator, which shouldn't work, actually does.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Galen on January 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a slim, lush novel set on Fire Island in the 1960's, and written years before the plague of AIDS. Its subject is the intoxicating, intimidating, seductive, and ultimately cruelly destructive hip gay demimonde: the ruling class there -- and its "subjects." Gifted and kind-hearted novelist-critic-memoirist-teacher Edmund White's first novel, and the one that got him noticed, then praised by Nabokov and many others. It describes a lost world, but has much to say about the one remaining. Beautifully constructed and definitely worth reading.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is not an easy book. It is striking and memorable. If you read it more for the immediate effect of the imagery rather than try to figure out a plot or the characters, it is much more rewarding. I'm not knowledgeable about the model of Fire Island society but that is secondary anyway. If you are looking for a real page-turner, this book is not for you. If you read slowly and visualize what the author describes, you will be amply rewarded.This book may be about life on a beach but it is not a "beach book."
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