downloadThe grand dame of gay letters, Edmund White, published The Unpunished Vice: a Life of Reading back in June, and I’m pleased to report to all who care that the 78 White is just as trenchant and charming as the 19 White who witnessed Stonewall.

I read this slender memoir/essay collection at jury duty. It made waiting almost pleasurable (and I like to think it’s the reason why I escaped unpicked).

The book is the definition of erudite, and I loved encountering reference after reference. I marked “Read!” every few pages. I love the honest examination of each’s book’s meaning: to White’s development, to literature, to unpacking the gay experience.

To make sure I follow through on my self-imposed promises, I’m making a list of all the books White referenced that I’d love to read. Starting with….

  • Nina Berberova’s The Italics are Mine
  • Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris, The Death of the Heart 
  • Mikhail Kuzmin’s Wings
  • Georges Eekhou’s Escal-Vigor
  • Julien Gracq’s The Opposing Shore
  • Umberto Saba’s Ernesto 
  • Simon Karlinsky’s The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol
  • Colette, The Ripening Seed, The Sentimental Retreat,
  • R.V. Cassill
  • Elizabeth Bowen’s
  • D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow
  • V.S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival
  • Mircea Cartarescu’s Blinding
  • Samuel Delany’s Man Man
  • Mathias Enard, Compass
  • Jean Echenoz
  • Emmanuel Carrère’s La Classe de Neige, L’Adversaire
  • Andrew Miller, Pure
  • John McGahern
  • Richard Yates’s The Easter Parade
  • Edmund White’s Nocturnes for the King of Naples, Forgetting Elena, Fanny, Dreaming for Freud, Inside a Pearl: My Year in Paris,
  • The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm
  • Richard Bausch
  • John Hawke’s The Blood Orange
  • Yasunari Kawaba’s The Sound of the Mountain
  • Raymond Queneau’s The Sunday of Life
  • Ben Marcus, The Age of Wire and String
  • Valery Larbaud’s The Unpunished Vice: Reading
  • Sait Faik Abasıyanık’s A Useless Man: Selected Stories
  • Colm Tóbín’s The Empty Family (“The Street” in particular)
  • Scot Alexander Trocchi’s Cain’s Book
  • James Gould Cozzens
  • George Herbert
  • Renata Adler’s Speedboat
  • Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie
  • Paul Veyne
  • Romola Nijinksy
  • Hugh Selby’s Last Exist to Brooklyn
  • Danil Kiš
  • Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird 
  • Yasunari Kawabata
  • Jean Rhy’s After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie
  • Tanizaki’s The Key, Some Prefer Nettles, The Bridge of Dreams
  • Kawabata’s The Sound of the Mountain
  • Mikhail Kermontov’s A Hero of Our Time
  • Adolphe
  • Nabakov’s Pale Fire
  • Federic Tuten’s The Green Hour
  • Nadine de Rotchschild, The Baronness Will Return at Five
  • Guyotat, Eden, Coma, Histories de Samora Machel
  • Jean Giono
  • James Salter’s Light Years
  • Yevgeny Zamyatin

White completes this stellar swirl of contemplation with an outlook to the future of literature:

The novel is alive and thriving through various strategies of renovation. The merging of fiction and reality, of memoir and narrative, is one great current source of strength. The reimagining of the historical novel is a second. And the third is the admission of new voices previously unheard or silenced….The novel remains the one artistic form to explore our thoughts, to get inside our heads, and that is where we love




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