The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading

Edmund White. Bloomsbury, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-1-63557-117-2
In this mélange of essay and memoir, author White (Our Young Man) reflects on the books and people that helped shape his remarkable literary life. In 2014, while recovering from a heart attack, he found that the seemingly impossible had happened: he didn’t feel like reading. This temporary aversion led him to examine his artistic motivations and to reexamine his transformation from a marginalized Midwestern kid into an icon of gay literature. In a conversational tone that blends affirmation and elegy, White escorts readers through an impressive range of interests and experiences—restroom cruising at 14, masterpieces of the Japanese novel (including works by Tanizaki and Kawabata), and the vanished highbrow cultures of New York City and Paris. Much of the text has been cobbled together from previously published essays, which at times undermines narrative unity. Given this ad-hoc structure, it’s hardly a surprise that the quality varies widely between sections, with a particularly flimsy chapter devoted to excessive praise of White’s famous novelist friends. Yet even at his most rambling, White’s erudition and charm are everywhere present. At its best, this collection is like a heartfelt conversation with friends over a bottle of wine. (June)
Reviewed on: 12/11/2017
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-63557-119-6
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