cover image Jack Holmes & His Friend

Jack Holmes & His Friend

Edmund White. Bloomsbury, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-1-60819-703-3

In his latest novel, National Book Critics Circle award winner White (Genet: A Life) presents Jack Holmes, an unambitious editorial assistant at a cultural journal and Midwestern WASP who is initially conflicted by homosexuality and an unrequited fascination with co-worker Will Wright, a Catholic blueblood and aspiring novelist. White leaves little room to empathize with either character as they separately wind through frank sexual encounters during the %E2%80%9860s and %E2%80%9870s; their ambivalent relationship, which is eventually marked by collusion over adultery, emerges as one of self-centered though occasionally tender intentions. A plot that glosses over several intervening years to narrate from Will%E2%80%99s perspective in the second part and later returns to Jack in the third culminates in a mention of GRID (a protonym for AIDS)%E2%80%94a moment that serves more as a device to lead both men out of their %E2%80%9Clibertine%E2%80%9D behavior within the span of a few sentences than as an historic, serious event worthy of reflection%E2%80%94best-suited for fans of White%E2%80%99s previous work, as well as readers intrigued by complex friendships. (Jan.)