Tuesday, January 31, 2012

City Boy My Life in New York During the 1960s and 1970s, by Edmund White, $39.99

City Boy My Life in New York During the 1960s and 1970s, by Edmund White, $39.99

Edmund White has already shared much of his life with us through his books.  In City Boy, his latest autobiographical work, he describes the life of a young man from the midwest arriving in the inexpensive New York of the 1960s and creating a life in this unique city.  We see him slowly build his self confidence in a city that is quite different from the rest of the United States.  Through it all he is striving to write and be published, which when finally achieves when he is in his late thities.  As a young man he also strives to be physically attractive. He was one of the first gay men to proudly show off a gym toned body.  His desire for acclaim personally and as a writer appears to have obstructed his writing.  It is only with maturity and a collection of life experiences including periods of living in Venice, Paris and San Francisco that his writing finally finds a voice of its own. 

This book lists 22 books written and published by White.  He is most famous for  A Boys Own Story, but he tells us that co-authoring The Joy of Gay Sex gave him his first boost into being taken seriously by publishers.

White also tells us about a time of sexual freedom and promiscuity that was halted in its tracks by the AIDS crisis.  He writes “Gays of my generation were especially unprepared to accept the new reality since for us gay liberation had meant sexual liberation and gay culture still meant sexual access and abundance.”

Personally I had grown up wondering if I would one day discover I was actually straight and just as I found the courage to act on my homosexual desires, with no fear of pregnancy and therefore no need for contraception,  AIDS arrived and the sexual delights that had been tantalising me were now shrouded with danger.  City Boy provides a perspective for younger generations such as mine about life in this more carefree, yet somehow repressed era.  This world of fantasy and free sex disappeared suddenly for all of us during the 80s and is brilliantly described in this book.

In City Boy we experience White’s New York life. While he does mention many famous names, these people were simply his friends.  In seeking to write and find his niche, Edmund found himself at the centre of Gay Liberation in a city driven by success as major changes occurred in the American way of life.  His is a life of self discovery and writing.  White writes very personally and entrances with this warts and all confessional description of a New York life lived to the full.

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