Burning Library

Burning Library


The Burning Library by Edmund White

1994, paperback

Signed by the author

"Beginning with "The Gay Philosopher," a powerful statement about the centrality of friendship in gay life, written just after the Stonewall Riots, and ending with "The Personal Is Political," a profoundly humanistic discussion of the place of queer fiction in the current dust storm of literary/identity politics, White constructs a fascinating portrait of his times, his world and himself as a writer. Animated by his uncanny novelist's eye for social observation, these essays offer a discerning chronicle—by turns celebratory and elegiacal—of the changes in gay life and culture from the beginning of the gay liberation movement in the late sixties to the present; it is a progress somberly punctuated by the occurrence of the AIDS crises and its staggering costs, to White personally and to his community. (The title, derived from the saying that when someone dies a library burns, refers to a pervasive sense of loss.)

A large part of the collection is devoted to pieces that bring White's prodigious critical intelligence to bear upon some of the most important writers of our time, including Vladimir Nabokov and Christopher Isherwood (whom he counts among his key influences) as well as Cormac McCarthy, William Burroughs, James Merrill, and Truman Capote, with whom White has an unforgettable sweltering interview. Among the other essays on art, there is a spirited defense of the controversial aesthetics of White's late friend and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and a dazzling appreciation of the singer formerly known as Prince."

-from the author