Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Edmund White

Edmund White's novels include Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, A Married Man, and Hotel de Dream. He is also the author of a biography of Jean Genet, a study of Marcel Proust, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, and his memoir, My Lives. His new book is City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s.

From his interview with Thomas Rogers at Salon:

I'm assuming you read the Gore Vidal interview in the Times of London. He says a number of very nasty things about you -- but he also makes accusations that you "gayed-up" his relationship with Tim McVeigh in your play "Terre Haute."

He signed off on it. Now, late in the day, he's decided he doesn't like it, or maybe he forgot -- he drinks a lot. The tension for the [Gore-inspired] character is that he doesn't actually approve of what McVeigh did, but he's attracted to McVeigh as a man and as a personality -- whereas Gore actually approves of what McVeigh did and thinks he's a great freedom fighter.

That's complete lunacy. Gore wanted me to rewrite it to show a lot more sympathy toward McVeigh, but I thought that would lose about 99 percent of the audience. I don't approve of killing hundreds of people in the name of some abstract ideal. I think Gore is a complete lunatic, and it doesn't bother me what he says about me. He's an awful, nasty man. Now he can't write. He's wheelchair-bound, and he's in pain. He lost his lover of many years. The last time I talked to him I said, "Come to dinner, and I'll have some cute boys for you to meet." "Oh, I don't want to meet any of them!" You know, he's just an old grouch.

He's been nice to me over the years, but he's always like this seething volcano and you're always wondering when he's going to go off.

I don't know what he's famous for anywhere, really, because I think those historical novels are complete works of taxidermy. Nobody can read those. "Myra Breckinridge" was funny but light. The essays are what everybody defends -- but a friend of mine who did a volume of the best essays of the 20th century said they're all so topical that they've all aged terribly. I don't know where his work is. You have to have one or two books that are actually good if you're going to have a lasting career, and I don't think...[read on]
Read about Edmund White's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue