Monday, July 7, 2014
Book Report: Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund White
It usually takes me weeks to finish a book, with so many priorities on the to-do list above sitting and reading: walking the dog, doing laundry, grocery shopping, reading a blog or two, filling the coffee canister, brushing the dog, cutting out coupons, etc.
Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund White was no exception. I started it on the plane to New Mexico in March and just finished it. I went back to the beginning after reading the epilogue and found that I barely recognized the narrative or any of the minor characters that appeared in the first part. This is partly due to having a memory like a sieve and partly due to the fact that I don't pay close attention if something doesn't get up and grab it.
I chose the book based on the fact that White is a gay author (A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White plays a part in my own memoir, to be published this fall) and it received good reviews.
I am not intellectual enough to appreciate the nuances of superb writing, and I only do my reports on books that I actually finish - in other words, books that didn't put me to sleep more often than they kept me awake. (I have never gotten through In One Person by John Irving, for example. I found I was bored beyond belief. But that's just me. I suppose intellectuals love it.)
So Jack Holmes, a gay man coming into his own in New York during the late fifties and early sixties finds he's attracted to his straight friend, Will, who he never ends up having sex with. The two are the gay and straight versions of newly sexually liberated men, and White juxtaposes their proclivities and their sexuality with some interesting narrative, observations and descriptions. But not interesting enough for me to read the book in a week. The story follows their "friendship" into the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
The New York Times reviewer was impressed with White's portrayal of physicality, sex and sensuality, which was the essence of the work. Perhaps having seen way too much porn, I found the sex rather matter-of-fact, rather than eye-opening.
The book was available on Amazon for something like fifty cents, used.