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The Married Man Unknown Binding – May 30, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Edmund White majored in sexual explicitness with his boldly autobiographical trilogy--A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, and The Farewell Symphony. Now, explicitly as ever, he trains his unflinching eye on a new subject: a young man's death from AIDS. Austin is a fiftysomething American expat in Paris; Julien is a young married man he meets at the gym. Much to Austin's surprise, Julien calls him and soon they are sharing a bed and a life. The Married Man is White's Henry James novel: the first couple hundred pages show us a satirical portrait of young Julien as a stuffy Frenchman and a more elliptical portrait of Austin's apprehension of French culture through his lover. With Julien, "Austin was always learning things, not necessarily reasoned or researched information but rather all those thousands and thousands of brand names, turns of phrase, aversions and anecdotes that make up a culture as surely as do the moves in a child's game of hopscotch."

But White wants to take us all the way to the end of this relationship. Austin is HIV positive, and it soon becomes clear that Julien has AIDS. As Julien's health unravels, the two travel to Providence, to Key West, to Venice, to Rome, and ultimately to Morocco. The author coins a darkly appropriate phrase for this urge to move: he calls it "AIDS-restlessness." White, in fact, unveils a whole gallery of startling images as Julien nears death. Julien is "the bowler hat descending into the live volcano." Thin and brown and bearded, he looks "like the Ottoman Empire in a turn-of-the-century political cartoon." Though he can't read it, Julien acquires a copy of the Koran. "It was the perfect book for a weary, dying man--pious, incomprehensible pages to strum, an ink cloud of unknowing." White has found a language both magical and clinical to describe a horrible death. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

In recent years, veteran novelist White (A Boy's Own Life; The Farewell Symphony) has turned to transatlantic themes (as in his biography of Genet). This Jamesian turn continues in the tale of Austin Smith, an expatriated scion of decayed Southern gentry, who lives on Ile Saint Louis, in Paris. Austin, an expert on 18th-century French furniture, is HIV positive but healthy when he becomes the lover of Julien, a married architect more than 20 years Austin's junior who is in the process of divorcing his wife. Throughout the first half of the novel, Austin maintains a protective distance, allowing him to see, all too clearly, Julien's pretensions and foibles. Austin keeps his HIV status secret from Julien until the latter gets the flu, which frightens Austin into a confession. When Austin gets a job teaching in Providence, R.I., he brings Julien with him. But a complication with Julien's visa, and Austin's restlessness, have the pair repeatedly flying back and forth between America and France. Meanwhile, Julien is diagnosed with AIDS, and his health disintegrates. The couple become a frustrated threesome when Austin feels responsible for a whiny, dim ex-lover named Peter, also dying of AIDS; Peter and Julien instantly detest each other. White's candor about the ways egotism is incompletely subsumed in love shows up in many wonderful touches; White illustrates perfectly, for example, the ways in which Austin's generosity to Julien and Peter, both much younger men, infantilizes them. His descriptions of Paris, Venice and Morocco are infused with an almost Matisse-like sensuality, but sometimes the author's evident intelligence seems wasted on his self-absorbed characters. In the perspicuity of White's art, however, even the vapid Julien, dying in Morocco, evokes pathos and terror, bestowing this love story with a classically tragic aura. BOMC featured selection; QPB selection; Reader's Subscription selection; to be featured in BOMC's new, as-yet-unnamed gay and lesbian book club. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st American ed edition (May 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375400052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375400056
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,091,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 6, 2000
Format: Unknown Binding Verified Purchase
Edmund White's gifts as an author are indisputable. Whether he sweeps us along in schlastic AND entertaining bigoraphies(Genet and Proust), explores the tenderness of gay relationships ( The Beautiful Room is Empty, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, etc) or just simply writes a novel like his current "The Married Man", he continues to affirm his gifts of powerful imagery, unique observation of the mundane, and just plain story telling. But I find this current book more than the sum of his gifts; I think we have a powerful parable here that addresses the vulnerability and indomitabilty of the human spirit in times of profound stress. Others have accomplished this in writing about the Great Plague of the Middle Ages, the Holocoaust of the last centtury, the countless wars that have produced some of our best poets ( Wilfrid Owen, Walt Whitman, WH Auden, Siegfried Sassoon, etc....). White draws upon the blight of the AIDS epidemic and its smoldering aftermath to place his characters at the stake and find redemption. This is a splendid love story (stories) that keeps us wondering about the bizarre reasons we choose our "soulmates", our lovers, until the final chapters.
A Married Man is more about how we elect to let the world know us, of how we hide who we are - at times even from ourselves. The inevitable disasters that accompany living with a mask are not condemned here, but whispered as an argument for how we survive despite our attempts to be self sufficient. If there is an overlying message in White's opus (and there, in truth, are many in this wise novel!) it is that compassion is our antidote to the inevitablity of death no matter what course our life takes.
Whether we have been care givers or care receivers during this time of AIDS, this book will touch even the flintiest reader.
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Format: Unknown Binding
"The Married Man" is Edmund White's finest. It's moving, lyrical (as his novels always are), passionate--and even has a plot (not to say I didn't enjoy his books that seemed to lack a plot). Never one to avoid or sugar-coat life's realities, in this novel White explores the challenges of a sero-discordant couple, the problems encountered when a former lover and a current one can't stand each other, and the issues that face couples of divergent ages, incomes, national origins, and native tongues. Anyone who's ever been in love knows that a romance is built on details, but White focuses on the details that matter: a nickname, a glance, how friends view the beloved, how anger or indifference or frustration affect the relationship. White's characters are never one-dimensional, but finely nuanced, alive and seared into memory.
In my opinion, no one writes place descriptions as vividly as White: One can almost imagine oneself at the café in Paris alongside his characters, listening to the haughty waiters spewing French, smelling the ubiquitous cigarette smoke, tasting the heavenly flavors of paté, a fine Sauternes, a delicate pastry. Winter in Providence never seemed so bleak or Key West so relentlessly sunny. And few writers can pack so much eroticism into one sentence (page 131 in case you want to check).
I was struck by the similarities between White's protagonist couple Austin and Julien and his own life with his former lover Hubert Sorin (as detailed in their co-authored book "Our Paris"). Both Julien and Hubert were French, similar in age, former architects, and each gave up his wife, his job, and his country to move to the States with his leading man.
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I was just as transfixed by "The Married Man" as I was by "The Farewell Symphony," Edmumd White's previous novel. Although the two books have much in common, the major difference is that while "Symphony" is a decades-long account of White's life, "The Married Man" covers a briefer period, focusing closely upon his relationship with the French lover he met while living in Paris (who was married when White met him, hence the title).
When the main character (let's call him "White") meets the French man, Julien, who will become his lover, we're amused at how White can be so attracted to this quirky architect in his shabby lime-green coat. White likes to dwell on telling details, and his ability to describe these details so perfectly is what makes him a writer of such genius. He depicts Julien with affectionate satire, describing the architect's shabby clothing with the same relish that he describes what he loves about him -- from Julien's handsome looks, his child-like joy in traveling and painting and walking their pet dog Ajax, to the earnestness with which he spins tall tales about his "aristocratic" family. The novel becomes much darker as Julein dies of AIDS. Once you've read the account of Julien's last months, months he spends immersed in his painting, the cover of this novel will make sense to you -- you will be very touched by the depiction of the architect and his dog. The painting on the cover is meaningful because it's just like the paintings Julien does in the novel.
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