Edmund White III 1940–
American novelist, dramatist, and nonfiction writer.
With his first novel, Forgetting Elena (1973), White established a reputation as a new novelist of great promise. His elegant, self-conscious prose has been compared with that of Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde, as have his decidedly homosexual viewpoint and sensibility. Like the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, White's fiction frequently focuses on what he sees as the sad and shallow lives of the idle rich. Nocturnes for the King of Naples (1978), White's second novel, is comprised of a series of brooding monologues by a young man who has lost his lover. Critics point out that in spite of its close focus on homosexuality, this work has a wide appeal. Such critics feel that the novel's stylistic virtues and ambitious intellectual aims make it interesting to a diverse group of readers. A Boy's Own Story (1982), White's recent novel, has received generally positive reviews. It is a bildungsroman told through the point of view of an alienated and precocious narrator similar to J. D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield.
White's nonfictional work includes States of Desire (1980), a sociological study of gay communities and gay lifestyles in the United States. Most critics praise this book as one of the few accurate and intelligent studies on the subject. Some point out, however, that because White focuses, as he does in his fiction, on upper-middle class members of the gay community, his study is not conclusive.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 45-48.)