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The Unpunished Vice : A Life of Reading
by Edmund White




Overview -

A new memoir from acclaimed author Edmund White about his life as a reader.

Literary icon Edmund White made his name through his writing but remembers his life through the books he has read. For White, each momentous occasion came with a book to match: Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, which opened up the seemingly closed world of homosexuality while he was at boarding school in Michigan; the Ezra Pound poems adored by a lover he followed to New York; the biography of Stephen Crane that inspired one of White's novels. But it wasn't until heart surgery in 2014, when he temporarily lost his desire to read, that White realized the key role that reading played in his life: forming his tastes, shaping his memories, and amusing him through the best and worst life had to offer.

Blending memoir and literary criticism, The Unpunished Vice is a compendium of all the ways reading has shaped White's life and work. His larger-than-life presence on the literary scene lends itself to fascinating, intimate insights into the lives of some of the world's best-loved cultural figures. With characteristic wit and candor, he recalls reading Henry James to Peggy Guggenheim in her private gondola in Venice and phone calls at eight o'clock in the morning to Vladimir Nabokov--who once said that White was his favorite American writer.

Featuring writing that has appeared in the New York Review of Books and the Paris Review, among others, The Unpunished Vice is a wickedly smart and insightful account of a life in literature.

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More About The Unpunished Vice by Edmund White

 
 
 

Overview

A new memoir from acclaimed author Edmund White about his life as a reader.

Literary icon Edmund White made his name through his writing but remembers his life through the books he has read. For White, each momentous occasion came with a book to match: Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, which opened up the seemingly closed world of homosexuality while he was at boarding school in Michigan; the Ezra Pound poems adored by a lover he followed to New York; the biography of Stephen Crane that inspired one of White's novels. But it wasn't until heart surgery in 2014, when he temporarily lost his desire to read, that White realized the key role that reading played in his life: forming his tastes, shaping his memories, and amusing him through the best and worst life had to offer.

Blending memoir and literary criticism, The Unpunished Vice is a compendium of all the ways reading has shaped White's life and work. His larger-than-life presence on the literary scene lends itself to fascinating, intimate insights into the lives of some of the world's best-loved cultural figures. With characteristic wit and candor, he recalls reading Henry James to Peggy Guggenheim in her private gondola in Venice and phone calls at eight o'clock in the morning to Vladimir Nabokov--who once said that White was his favorite American writer.

Featuring writing that has appeared in the New York Review of Books and the Paris Review, among others, The Unpunished Vice is a wickedly smart and insightful account of a life in literature.



This item is Non-Returnable.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781635571172
  • ISBN-10: 1635571170
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Publish Date: June 2018
  • Page Count: 240
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Well Read: A man's own story

Writer Edmund White was a pioneering force in the nascent gay literature movement of the 1970s and ’80s, when the LGBT community was making its first inroads into staking out a wider literary terrain. White’s novels, such as A Boy’s Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty, are often autobiographical, always narratively elegant and frequently sexually frank. He has also made his mark with numerous candid memoirs. White’s latest memoir, The Unpunished Vice: A Life in Reading, filters his experiences through a lifetime of reading and writing. The impetus for this particular memoir seems to have been, in part, a massive heart attack in 2014 that temporarily left White with no interest in reading—a desire now happily restored.

Writing from his 78-year-old perch, White vacillates between the curmudgeonly and the wistful as he assesses a changing world tempered by the permanence of literature. He calls reading “a melancholy project . . . at once a lonely and an intensely sociable act,” and he clearly savors the essential role it has played in his life since an early age. “I’ve always associated reading and writing with sex,” he states in a customary statement of provocation. Episodes from his childhood in suburban Chicago, his time at boarding school and the University of Michigan, his literary apprenticeship in New York and many years spent living in Paris were often shaped by sexual liaisons. These liaisons are fixed in memory by the books he discovered in libraries, bookshops and, to a lesser extent, the classroom. Acknowledging his homosexuality at a young age, White at first wrestled with that realization during the unforgiving cultural climate of the 1950s, but he found early guidance into the complexities of self in the work of Thomas Mann, André Gide and Christopher Isherwood.

White offers insightful commentary on a range of international writers, from the Japanese masters Jun’ichirĊ Tanizaki and Yasunari Kawabata to Marcel Proust and Jean Giono, one of his favorite French novelists, who is not very well known in America. (White is an avowed Francophile, and his recollections of living in Paris are alluring.) He carries from his past a great appreciation for some now-neglected writers such as Henry Green and Ronald Firbank, and he reveres Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Nabokov, whom he never met face-to-face but with whom he shared a literary friendship by phone and letters. White reveals that Nabokov once offhandedly called him his favorite American writer. White also writes admiringly about some of his fellow American authors, as well as about less-famous friends who have sustained him in his literary career and in everyday life.

The Unpunished Vice is an unusual hybrid composed of White’s astute literary criticism interlaced with often highly personal stories about friendships, relationships and sex. Some of the chapters previously appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Paris Review and other literary outlets, and consequently there are occasionally unnecessary repetitions of facts or observations. While the writing is always engaging, White’s thoughts sometimes seem to meander, and the book might have been tightened with judicious editing. But even in his sometimes irascible, sex-preoccupied dotage, White is a charming and sharp-witted raconteur worth spending time with on the page. The Unpunished Vice is a welcome capstone to the venerable literary career of a writer who has never been afraid to expose his own and others’ fallibility.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

BAM Customer Reviews