City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and 1970s by Edmund White
Jun 27, Tosh rated it really liked it. Saying that about my eccentricity about his work, White is a superb writer.
I am a big fan of memoir writing, and White has that classic quality regarding that genre. New York City was a different type of place as of now. And White captures the gay subculture around that world, yet he ignores certain aspects of "general" or popular pop culture that was taking place i never read his fiction, but pretty much read his non-fiction - and for whatever reason I just haven't picked up any of his novels. And White captures the gay subculture around that world, yet he ignores certain aspects of "general" or popular pop culture that was taking place at the same time circ.
So due to his aesthetic taste there is no mention of the punk scene - which makes perfect sense with respect to his book - yet that was so much part of the scene at the time. Yet he does touch on the disco plane. The broad strokes are not that interesting, but his little intense profiles on people around him are great. Especially Susan Sontag, Joe Brainard, and others. I also like how he writes about NYC as a physical place.
Those who know it now, or never lived it in the 60's or 70's it would be now like visiting a ghostly presence. View all 8 comments. Feb 04, Kerry rated it it was ok. I couldn't finish it. I wanted to read it because I had heard that White was a good writer, and because I thought it would be a documentation of life in NYC in the 60s and 70s.
Bt it was really more a narrative about the author's career start and I wanted more detail about life in NYC during that time period.
City Boy: My Life in New York in the 1960s and 70s
The thing is, when he finally gave you some overview or detail, it was uninteresting. And his story kept leaping back and forth: I wanted to leave the story with a feeling of "wow, I wish I could have lived there back then" but sadly, it didn't leave me with that feeling at all. I read up to the halfway point and then just stopped. Sep 15, Casper Hach rated it did not like it. Attitude magazine mentioned this book as a must read classic. I found it to be the most sinfully boring book I have ever opened. I wish I was a quitter and had just skipped reading the rest, but I decided that I could not form an opinion without reading the whole thing, so I pulled myself together and pages at a time, I finished the book in just a year and a half.
If you need something to put you to sleep every night, this book is the perfect choice. Jan 12, Chris rated it really liked it Shelves: It also will be eye-opening for younger gay men who want to know what they missed: In the decades since, there has been of course a tragic r "In the s in New York everyone slept till noon. In the decades since, there has been of course a tragic retrenchment of both due to AIDS and the rise of the religious-right conservative movement.
Only now, some forty-plus years later, is significant progress again being made on both the health and the political fronts. For those two decades all sexually transmitted diseases could be treated with antibiotics, unwanted pregnancies were eliminated through the pill and legalized abortion, and AIDS did not yet exist. Religion seem to be on the wane and promiscuity appeared to be the wave of the future.
In page after page we read about the famous people he worked with, and indeed the name dropping becomes burdensome yet beneficial, causing many side trips to Wikipedia to learn who they were, what they created, and what they looked like. Interleaved between the artistic rambling a is plenty of sex, frankly described. If we can believe White, and I think we can, the ease at which sex could be had, with almost anyone, including celebrities, is astounding. And by no means is it restricted to monogamous couples, same-sex or otherwise.
Much of these antics are fictionally reproduced in his novel Caracole, which if otherwise a failure, quite viscerally animates a whole crowd of sexual "nymphs and satyrs" drawn from White's intimates. Apart from certifying to us "moderns" that sex was so much different then, White does have a message, one which might not be agreeable to all: Love raises great expectations in us that it never satisfies; the hopes based on friendship are milder and in the present, and they exist only because they've already been rewarded.
Love is a script about just a few repeated themes we have a hard time following, though we make every effort to conform to its tone. Whatever your political motivations today, there is no denying what it was like back then, and White describes it well and factually. City Boy also covers a lot of New York ground. White lived there when the city was a dump, was floundering financially, and was a truly dangerous place to live. This is almost entirely unknown today.
The garbage piled up and stank during long strikes of the sanitation workers. A major blackout led to days and days of looting. We gay guys wore whistles around our necks so we could summon help from other gay men when we were attacked on the streets by gangs living in the projects between Greenwich Village and the West Side leather bars. The upside was that the city was inexpensive…" [emphasis added] Wow. Can any of us imagine this as reality today? Maybe someone, but not most. So, it was pretty bad back then in the great City of the East. Thank goodness it's better now But it's not that simple to White.
Art thrives in adversity, political progress is driven by pain and suffering. His conclusion is ambiguous, his outlook undefined. Now at the end of a long fruitful career, how majestic for him to leave the ultimate truth finding to us, if only we can rediscover the source locale. He does warn us in the quote below that it won't be found any longer in the mythical City of Fog on the West Coast. I'm inclined to agree. So where is it?
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That was the era of 'coffee shops' as they were defined in New York—cheap restaurants open round the clock where you could eat for less than it would cost to cook at home. That was the era of ripped jeans and dirty T-shirts, when the kind of people who are impressed by material signs of success were not the people you wanted to know. Feb 21, Blake Fraina rated it it was ok.
In Alan Bennett's play The History Boys , when the dimmest of the students is asked to define history, he replies, "It's just one [expletive] thing after another. But also, quite true.
And it happens to be the reason I tend to avoid non-fiction At least when one is writing a biography particularly about someone who is already dead or writing about history, the author has enough distance to give the story some shape and ascribe it so In Alan Bennett's play The History Boys , when the dimmest of the students is asked to define history, he replies, "It's just one [expletive] thing after another. At least when one is writing a biography particularly about someone who is already dead or writing about history, the author has enough distance to give the story some shape and ascribe it some sort of meaning.
Autobiography is a bit stickier. Even though the seedy, filthy, dangerous New York of the 's has all but been forgotten, it was fertile ground for many of the most influential artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians of the latter part of the Twentieth Century. Over the years, books like Edie and Please Kill Me both of which consist of edited and skillfully arranged interviews have fed my interest in this period. I figured if anyone could conjur that time period on the page, it would surely be a skillful and evocative writer like White.
Unfortunately I found the book to be dull and almost completely formless. He flits from one episode to another, tepidly dishing the dirt on a lot of hotsy totsy and mostly dead literary luminaries, only about half of whom I've heard of. While he does spill a fair amount of ink on the squalid living conditions in pre-boom Manhattan, the descriptions are all fairly dry and cliche garbage piling in the streets due to strikes, multiple locks on apartment doors and lack any real flavour of the era. Surprisingly, the rampant sex of that time period is somewhat coyly presented and, in retrospect, primarily only as a set up for the sea change occasioned by the looming AIDS crisis that comes near the book's conclusion.
The most fascinating aspect of the story dealt with the writing of his first novel, Forgetting Elena and his subsequent struggle to get it edited, published, reviewed and recognized.
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That novel has always been a favourite of mine and, as a writer, the story of how a debut novel goes from idea to publication, was edifying and fascinating. But that, in and of itself, is not enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend White's book. For a more lively, colourful version of this period in NY history with a gay perspective , one should really read Wayne County's outrageous memoir, Man Enough to be a Woman. Mar 04, Rod rated it really liked it. His objective observations about self, situations, and politics sometimes challenged my own preconceptions, but were enlightening.
And I came to admire his conclusions. Overall I came to a better understanding of a history and place where I had lived too. At the pool everyone was so old that Gore Vidal reputedly referred to it as Lourdes. Well, I finally managed to wrest time from the holiday schedule to read the last few pages. I tend to like White's writing even when he is fictionalising his own story. Here he is in outright auto-biography mode and his voice is both very personal and unfailingly kind even when he is truthful about people's foibles and flaws.
As Irving says in the blurb, this is a book for anyone interested in the nature of friendship and it is a fabulous glimpse of the New York of the sixeventies and early eigh Well, I finally managed to wrest time from the holiday schedule to read the last few pages. As Irving says in the blurb, this is a book for anyone interested in the nature of friendship and it is a fabulous glimpse of the New York of the sixeventies and early eighties. I picked it up twice more before finally finishing it, and after all that effort to read the book I'm a little My Life in New York During the s and s.
In the New Y ork of the s, in the wake of Stonewall and in the midst of economic collapse, you might find the likes of Jasper Johns and William Burroughs at the next cocktail party, and you were as likely to be caught arguing Marx at the New York City Ballet as cruising for sex in the warehouses and parked trucks along the Hudson. Ah, when two realities meet.
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City Boy: My Life in New York During the s and s by Edmund White | The Times
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