The author: Edmund White is one of the leading chroniclers of gay life in America and a longtime professor of creative writing at Princeton. His new book, States of Desire Revisited: Travels in Gay America, brings back a chronicle of gay life in the United States that was first published in 1980. White is the author of several novels, including the groundbreaking coming-of-age tale A Boy’s Own Story, as well as several memoirs about his life abroad, his many lovers, and his role as a self-described “archaeologist of gossip.”
The book: In a new introduction and afterword, White looks back at the late ’70s, when he traveled the country to explore gay liberation, political activism, and sexual freedom. The book covers San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, but also explores the less public gay life in places such as Kansas City and Memphis. Throughout, White peppers his prose with personal stories and colorful observations, capturing the nuances of gay life just before the AIDS epidemic rocked the community. White’s afterword explores how the Internet has affected gay culture.
Opening lines: “Since this book came out in 1980, the world of gays has evolved more quickly than any other in peacetime since the beginning of history. Violence and war have been able to effect sudden and usually disastrous changes, but the changes that occur peacefully are most often slow and sedimentary. In fact this book shows a past world preserved in amber, despite the way that world was full of plans, impregnated by what it imagined was a utopian future.”
Review: Fran Lebowitz writes, “Edmund White is one of the few living writers who has the capacity to turn me into a good listener.States of Desire is consistently smart and funny.”