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When the narrator of White's poised yet scalding autobiographical novel first embarks on his sexual odyssey, it is the 1950s, and America is "a big gray country of families on drowsy holiday." That country has no room for a scholarly teenager with guilty but insatiable stirrings toward other men. Moving from a Midwestern college to the Stonewall Tavern on the night of the first gay uprising - and populated by eloquent queens, butch poseurs, and a fearfully incompetent shrink - The Beautiful Room is Empty conflates the acts of coming out and coming of age.
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Why a good quasi-Christian like me would read a novel like this? I am sure that most of my co-religionists would be greatly confused and may be even disappointed in me (:. Plus take into account White's somewhat hostile attitude towards Christianity. To begin with...language. White's mastery of language is totally superb. Read it just for that. Honesty- this is a very honest book. This is what I am, White tells us- deal with it. May be occasionally too much of it but still kudos to White for doing so (I would not be able to write a book like this; sometimes however I wish- and if I were what would exactly happen to me? would I be disowned?). Compassionate treatment of people of different sexual orientation (I feel like I am on shaky ground right now- forgive me if I offend anyone). When I read the novel I was within a different world of different existence (different from mine, I mean). White, like Nabokov and Tolstoy (two of his favorites), knows how to write about complex matters with a light, exhilarating and humorous tone. He also manages to convey that being gay is a painful experience in the society that does not accept homosexuality. To his credit he is not in any way didactic about it. White has been called the voice of gay America. Is it the voice only for the gays? I doubt. All of us need to hear this voice. I enjoyed very much Backman's reading (contrary to some). It has a touch of neuroticism and urgency about it. He sings through the novel. Strongly recommended on all counts.
12 people found this helpful
Very good book by a fine author. I didn’t realize that this is the second book in a trilogy, but I don’t think it matters what order they are read/listened to as I had no trouble following the story. I do plan on listening to the other books in the trilogy as well as a worthwhile endeavor. I think I recall a number of people “dissing” the narrator, but I thought the narrator was great(!!), and a good part of what made listening to this book so enjoyable.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the authentic gay male experience during the years prior to the explosion of the gay rights movement by someone who knows (the author, not me!) because he was there and actually went through it.
There are quite a few very graphic sexual scenes in this book. However, this was not the main thrust (so to speak!) of the book and, I thought, very much in context with the rest of the telling of the story.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about this topic by an intelligent and talented writer.
5 people found this helpful
Would you try another book from Edmund White and/or George Backman?
Yes for Edmund White ... No for George Backman
Do you think The Beautiful Room Is Empty needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
Yes it needs a follow up, but I know what it will focus on. That will be AIDS unfortunately, for that was the gay communities plague in the US.
Any additional comments?
I had to end up playing this on 1.25 speed just to get to the end. The narrator is so slow and over the top it's extremely annoying.
2 people found this helpful