“Queerness has become less arty, less intellectual, less cultural, more physical, more gym-oriented, more commercial. Lady Gaga instead of Maria Callas.”
Novelist, memoirist, essayist and queer literary icon Edmund White joins the show to talk about his new memoir, The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading (Bloomsbury USA)! We get into how his implied reader has changed identities over the years, the differences between writing memoir, autofiction and imaginative fiction, the boom and bust of the “gay fiction” bookstore category, the challenges of his massive biography of Genet and how he navigated about French attitudes toward gossip, and having the gay version of a shotgun wedding. We also get into his HIV diagnosis in 1985, outliving what he thought was a two-year death sentence, and being crazy enough to take on a long-term writing project in the midst of it. In between, we get to his status as a blurb-slut, what it’s like for him to write on a computer for the first time, the pressure to write for a gay audience and how The Flaneur opened him up to a very different reader, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading!
“I hate the term ‘creative nonfiction,’ which always sounds to me like, you know, lying.”
“I felt my Genet biography was political. I wanted to remind people that gays had a history before AIDS and that it didn’t just involve disease.”
About our Guest
Edmund White is the author of many novels, including A Boy’s Own Story: A Novel, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, The Farewell Symphony, and Our Young Man. His nonfiction includes City Boy, Inside a Pearl, and other memoirs; The Flaneur, about Paris; and literary biographies and essays, including Genet: A Biography and Marcel Proust: A Life. He was named winner of the 2018 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. He lives in New York. His most recent book is The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. White’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. White by me. It’s on my instagram.