cover image The Humble Lover

The Humble Lover

Edmund White. Bloomsbury, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63973-088-9

In White’s audacious latest (after A Previous Life), wealthy Manhattanite Aldwych West pursues the younger August Dupond, principal dancer for the New York City Ballet. The 80-year-old’s aching desire for the 20-year-old enfant terrible leads to a live-in relationship that upends each of their lives. August prefers Gatorade to champagne, brings home other lovers, and engages in hardcore BDSM with his partners. Aldwych, meanwhile, hatches a plan to win August’s affections that involves launching a new ballet company, which would allow August to fulfill his creative potential. Philanthropic investment banker Bryce gets involved with the project, and Bryce’s dominatrix wife, Ernestine, arranges for an “afternoon of pleasure and pain” with herself, August, and a sex worker. As the sexual paths of these “perfidious lovers” continue to cross, Aldwych stumbles through his increasingly quixotic endeavor, and White brings it all together in a shocking and baroque conclusion. As ever, White is a master of social comedy and wry observations (on the source of Aldwych’s wealth: “His family had invented the microwave, or maybe something older, like the kitchen stove”). Explicit descriptions of August’s sex life, meanwhile, not only titillate but add poignancy to the portrayal of Aldwych’s elusive desire. Readers will delight in this immersion into a lurid world of passion. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (May)