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[75] A Boy’s Own Story – Edmund White

edwhite.jpgWritten with an astonishing sensuousness, the poised voice of the nameless narrator–a boy growing up in the 1950s–A Boy’s Own Story exudes a mixture of tenderness and anguish. Growing up with emotionally aloof, divorced parents, and forced to endure ridicule from his unrelenting sister and schoolmates, the boy, in a singular voice, reflects on his difficult childhood. His longing for love and acceptance can spill over at any provocation from literature, art and imagination.The narrative flips back and forth his childhood and adolescence, with details on boyish bondage, intimate friendships, and sexual escapades.

That he becomes aware of his yearning for men at an early age makes him cross but priggishly desirous. He impersonates in Death of Venice, luxuriating in the tale of a dignified grown-up who dies for the love of an indifferent boy his age. He spends hours escaping from his troubled life to bouts of thoughts in which he capitulates the love of an older man. When it dawns on him that imagination is no more than admission of failure, he succumbs to the ingenuity of fate, which has impregnated him with his life–a tragic embryos.

The novel is very artistic–a translation out of the crude patois of actual slow suffering in which mean, scattered thoughts and boredom mingle to form a beautiful sentiment. (Don’t we feel the same at times?) With all the density and tedium one could have gathered the young narrator touches on issues that, by the standards of the age of sexual awakening, is very shocking. Could this really be the inner working of a child’s mind? This novel conveys a feeling that spawns from social fear and yearning. He fears his friends and wants them to love him. The cause of his writhing loneliness is this fell of shame that still afflicts the gay community now. That he regards homosexuality as a sickness plunges him into pursuit of buddhism, which preaches the total extirpation of desire–including the liquidation of his desire and lust for men. To him the world is governed by a minority, the sexually active and that they hold sway over a huge majority of the “nonsexual”–the unnoticed, the unwanted, the ugly. All media target the sexuals, to their rash whims and finicky tastes.

The novel is an investigation of self-worth in a pre-don’t-ask, don’t-tell era. Contradicting thoughts and emotions flank the pages as he delivers these mental harangues. He wishes to love a man but not to be a homosexual. The lover would prize him for his sexuality, which was at once his essence and also an attribute he is unfamiliar with. He knows he is worthless and yet he is convinced someone will find him worthy.

2 Responses

  1. I tried to read this novel about 15-years ago and just couldn’t get into it. I’ve wondered how I would perceive it today?

  2. Hey I just want to write to say that am doing a performance on a guy who is actually bisexual…this story I making it up by himself…I just wonder if you can tell me how to find this book or how to see the film…I know that there is one…I just want to do a work of performance and I believe this will give me an idea…thanks you x

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