Category Archives: Edmund White

9th Discussion: Edmund White’s Chaos (20 May 2010)

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4th Discussion: Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story (17 Dec 2009)

Present: Caleb, Issac, Timmy, Bay, George and Aaron.

1. Stylistically, Bay dislikes the novel because he feels that the metaphorical quality of the prose is juvenile and antiquated; the non-linearity of narrative isn’t suited for autobiography; there is no resolution; and the characters move in and out, defying Chekhov’s gun rule (viz. “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there”). But Isaac doesn’t have a problem with the metaphoric language; Aaron claims that the non-linearity follows a queer tradition to counter the heteronormantive, heterosexist writing; and characters’ moving in and out of a person’s life reflects very much the norm in real life; George says that there needn’t be a resolution.

2. Although there are some poignant portions which allow us to identify with the nameless narrator, some of us couldn’t do so and we point out that it may be a class issue and that of a generation gap.

3. Much is made of the narrator’s selfish behavior but we also say that it may arise because of his insecurity and adolescent angst.

4. Sex: Timmy, who remembers Chuck has the biggest cock and who-sucks-whom in the novel, shrewdly notes that the sex gets less and less graphic as the story progresses while the emotional aspect increases, showing a maturity of sorts.

5. Love: Aaron brings up Lip Sin’s point that the novel is idealistic in its portrayal of love, that “love is possible.” Aaron defends Lip Sin’s point that the idealism of love in the novel seeps in in small amounts and unexpectedly, hence it goes almost unnoticed. It is the narrator’s relentless pursuit of a perfect love, that childlike tenacity, that makes the novel idealistic, despite how the narrator is such a brat.

6. Family: George brings up that despite the narrator’s coming out, the father does not disown him; this is a tolerant gesture in 50s, the setting of the novel. Aaron further realizes that the narrator does not get along with his blood-relatives (Dad, Mom and Sister) but with his step-mother; he actually identifies with her. Strange. George claims that this may be because of the short time of interaction between them.

7. Helen Paper, the object of the narrator’s affections, is nothing but a body, pendulous breasts, breasts and breasts, Aaron suggests; she has no personality. Bay argues that this may be the narrator’s perception of Helen, or in other words, Helen may have character but his lust for her prevents him to see it. Caleb says that the narrator is mimicking a straight boy’s view of Helen so that to see with heterosexual eyes means that he could be popular and fit into society easily.

8. Kevin, Tommy, Chuck. We don’t really have much to say about them, narrator’s crushes.

9. The Scotts are a funny family. All pastors are pedophiles.

10. Howie, narrator’s frenemy. He’s a cowboy, a Nazi, and he is dead.

11. The psychological mumbo-jumbo of the book, which is the prevalent thinking of that time, proves to be outdated, and pisses Bay off.

12. We discuss in detail the ending and agree–finally one thing we can agree on!–that the narrator feels like being an adult is being in power (George’s point); that is, one has to be in control of the situation, coming into a consciousness, an awareness of the circumstances.

George and Bay left and when we locked up, Isaac suggested at the last minute that we go for drinks. Books and booze – we decide to make this a tradition.

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