Groundbreaking literary icon Edmund White reflects on his remarkable life in New York in an era when the city was economically devastated but incandescent with art and ideas. White struggles to gain literary recognition, witnesses the rise of the gay rights movement, and has memorable encounters with luminaries from Elizabeth Bishop to William Burroughs, Susan Sontag to Jasper Johns. Recording his ambitions and desires, recalling lovers and literary heroes, White displays the wit, candor, and generosity that have defined his unique voice over the decades.
“[A] moving chronicle . . . that peacock’s tail, those stag’s antlers—they’re here, to be sure, but so are vulnerability, doubt, failure and long years toiling at the sort of cruddy day jobs that most literary writers know all too well . . . In City Boy, White is amusing and raucous as ever but he also lets the mask slip . . . his losses and struggles, as consequence, seems less sculpted, but more real . . . City Boy, plain-spoken and knowing, is a survivor’s tale, a missive from one of those antlered boys of that era to the others who are gone: this is who we were, this is how it was, this was our city. Some stories don’t need to be embellished to glow.”—New York Times Book Review
“City Boy is Mr. White's second memoir in three years, and a great deal of his fiction (notably the novel A Boy's Own Story) has been autobiographical. You get the sense of a writer slowly peeling his life like an artichoke, letting only a few stray leaves go at a time . . . this one is salty and buttery, for sure. Mr. White's 'Oh, come on, guys' meekness has vanished into thin air.”—New York Times
“[White] retained a keen appreciation for the varieties of affection, which is gracefully displayed here. Lively sketches of James Merrill, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others are occasionally sharp as well as fond, but White’s candor extends equally to his own doubts and failures.”—New Yorker
“So witty, so insightful, so bristling with gossip, that one almost fails to notice that it is an essential chronicle of a revolution in many ways no less important than the fall of Communism: the gay liberation movement, in which White was both an actor and a privileged spectator . . . In one of his many discourses on friends famous—Jasper Johns, Peggy Guggenheim, James Merrill—and otherwise, White described a now-forgotten novelist's book as lacking 'that key, embarrassing literary quality no one knows how to discuss: charm.' City Boy is full of it, even when discussing weighty topics.”—Harper's Magazine
“Any writer’s coming-of-age tale is bound to inspire would-be authors, but White’s is particularly engaging, thanks to his bracing honesty about his despair, anxiety and impoverished existence…[The] deeply personal, idiosyncratic accounts of the bold-faced names White befriends as he builds his career are by far the most absorbing parts of City Boy.”—Time Out New York
“City Boy is an amazing memoir of White’s hunger for literary fame—for publication even—and intellectual esteem in the superheated creative world of 60s and 70s New York. His sketches of writers and artists, including everyone from poets James Merrill and John Ashbery to artist Robert Wilson and editor Robert Gottlieb, are full of bon mots, sharply observed details, and great honesty about his own desires for love and esteem. City Boy vividly brings to life the sheer squalor of life in 1970s New York . . . A wonderful raconteur with a well-stocked fund of anecdotes and observations, White’s writings reveal much about alliances, alignments, and personalities from a vanished world that still echo strongly in our own.”—This Week in New York
“Since White is a born raconteur, his gimlet-eyed anecdotes about celebrities of the era are as tangy as blood orange sorbet served after lobster Thermidor . . . [he] matches his talent for journalism with brilliant imagistic prose.”—Gay City News
“[An] exuberant, thoughtful memoir . . . White's affectionate yet candid portraits of literary celebrities Richard Howard, Harold Brodkey and Susan Sontag celebrate those friendships, with the eminences coming across as quite distinct from their forbidding pubic personas, even lovable . . . Sparkling cameo appearances by the likes of Truman Capote, Robert Mapplethorpe and Fran Lebowitz expand the feeling that artistic Manhattan then was a very different place than it is today. All fun aside, the gadabout boulevardier at some point had to take a back seat to the fiercely ambitious emerging writer. White's vivid analysis of his artistic struggles and literary progress during these years is like a master class for other writers . . . White's memoir . . . has charm to burn.”—Shelf Awareness
“One of White’s gifts as a stylist is that, like Sargent in his watercolors, he can capture people quickly. The labor never shows, the effects are fresh, the brush strokes loose yet precise . . . White, through-out, never lets the shadows get too dark. His refusal to become bogged down in self recrimination seems of a piece, perhaps, with his greatest strength: an absolute rejection of the shame queer people have always been told they should feel. Some may think he’s spent too long looking at himself. But for White the self is always social; well observed, it’s full of other lives, endlessly lush and complex. In City Boy, the stories of these lives—and White’s—are recounted with the literary quality he tells us he admires most: charm.”—Lambda Literary Review
“A graceful memoir of a decidedly ungraceful time in the life of New York City . . . A welcome portrait of a time and place long past, and much yearned for.”—Kirkus Reviews
An esteemed novelist and cultural critic, Edmund White is the author of many books, including the autobiographical novel A Boy's Own Story; a previous memoir, My Lives; and most recently a biography of poet Arthur Rimbaud. White lives in New York City and teaches writing at Princeton University.