A N T O N I A F R A S E R A Personal Anthology

’The purpose of this anthology is first and foremost to give pleasure. It has a secondary intention: to demonstrate the romantic richness of Scottish love poetry down the ages to the present day.’

It is no illusion of Antonia Fraser's that the Scots are romantic.

The Times, said of the original publication ’Far from the doumess and taciturnity of legend, the Scot appears

here as a lover only slightly less impressive than the ltalian.’

Kathleen Raine ’Passion, jealousy and lament spring pure from the heart.’ The Sunday Telegraph

This is a book to read lover to lover; a book to be read alone; a book to be enjoyed with friends. And an inspiration to those in love.



Published for ST VALENTINE'S DAY Z34X156mm 288pp

ISBN 0 86241 167 X Hardback £12.95 Publication February 8 1988


Alan Taylor talks to Edmund White about writing gay fiction in an atmosphere of receding freedoms.

On a cold and wet Sunday morning last August Edmund White came to Edinburgh and beguiled a canvas-covered crowd with an extract from the then unpublished sequel to A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room is Empty. It is now out and White was once again in town to give a reading from it at West and Wilde. Beautiful Room is the pivotal volume of a projected trilogy, in which White's self-effacing narrator leaves the Midwest for New York to pursue his studies and explore the gay world. On a night out with boys of his own inclination he realises he has become one ofthem when he hears a straight boy say, ‘Some people are sick. real sick.’ ‘For the first time,‘ writes White, ‘I‘d crossed the line. I was no longer a visitor to the 200. but one of the animals.‘

Like its predecessor Beautiful Room is an intimately gay book.

redolent of raw sex, in which the young narrator spends a lot of time in toilets, as well as listening repeatedly to Puccini‘s opera. Manon Lescaut. The writing is sweet and clean and dominated by the narrator‘s probing sexuality. But I wondered if White was not. by allowing gay themes to dominate his fiction, in danger of restricting his audience? He

denied this: ‘I don‘t think there is a general reader anymore in the English-speaking world. I think that every reader belongs to a special interest group. There are women; there are blacks; there are genre readers. There are all these categories. What we call the general novel is basically the llampstead novel. It‘s addressed to upper-middle class, white people; that seems to me like one more ghetto. The French hate the Hampstead novel. They never publish them and they don‘t get it at

all. Somebody like A

nita Brookner leaves them completely dumbfounded. It doesn‘t translate and only in England could you imagine that the Hampstead novel was universal in its appeal. I feel that A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room is Empty are at least as wide in their appeal as that.‘

Though born in the United States. White has lived in France for the past five years. a country he finds less sociable than Britain. but also less hysterical particularly in the Press in its response to AIDS. AIDS. White acknowledges. has outlawed the promiscuity described in Beautiful Room. committing the free loving days of the 605 to pre-history. ‘Angela Carter told me the other day that sex began in 1965 and it was all over by 1980. So there were only 15 years in all human history when people could do as they pleased. I had a friend who was a psychiatrist for gay men and some of his clients were extraordinarily handsome and promiscuous. He said that every one said they hadn‘t had enough sex.‘

They‘re unlikely to make up for in these days of new moralism. when the cry is for safe. sanitized sex and fidelity. Beautiful Room ends. however. on a note ofoptimism. its narrator a bystander at the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, gays‘ ‘Bastille Day'. when patrons of a bar raided by police stood their ground and protested openly. only for it to go unremarde in the newspapers.

Some reviewers. however. have suggested that the third volume of the trilogy must be more sombre, as White drifts towards AIDS. But he now wants to deflect attention from his narrator: ‘I want to explore more of the character of the sister who has become a lesbian.‘

‘But all your women become lesbians. don‘t they'."

‘Yes. they do.‘ he says with a puckish smile. ‘It‘s true to life in that way.‘

The Beautiful Room is Empty by Edmund White is published by Picador. priced £9. 95 .

I The First Fig Tree Vivian (ilover

black grapes.‘

The quiet lives ofemotional solitaries - oddballs and outsiders are his natural terrain and what is potentially depressing fare is never less than entertaining in this rare and beguilingly spun debut. (Tom Adair)


I White Mischief James Fox (Penguin £3.95) Kenya in the 40s was home to gin-slinging expats one of whom the philandering 22nd Earl of Erroll caught a bullet in the head. Who did it? No one knows but Fox fancies it was Sir Jock Delves Broughton who was tried and released. Classic crime reportage.

I Republican Party Reptile PJ. O’Rourke (Picador £3.50) Lampoonery from the latest in a long line of Yankee heir-apparents to Thurber. Funny ha-ha in places: but

only 50-50 in others.

I The Barbarous Coast and Meet Me at the Morgue Ross MacDonald (Allison and Busby £3.99 each) The first features Lew Archer. the only gumshoe, as portrayed by P. Newman Esq. to be sponsored by Wr-g-l-y‘s; the second introduces Bourke in a bit part. a ‘private eye who can spot a pretty face a mile off and miss something fishy under his nose‘. Both books are as taut as cheesewire.

I The House on Moon Lake Francesca Duranti (Flamingo £3.50) An indigent Italian translator comes across a eulogistic reference to a German novel and takes the first train to the National Library of Vienna to check it out. Echoes of Eco, but cleanly written and a worthy addition to the school of biblio-sleuthery.

(Methuen £3.95) lleart~rcnding story. set in the Deep South. of a great-grandmother and her great-granddaughter brought together by the ('ivil War.

I Mr Siandiasi, The Island of Sheep, Greenmantle and The Three Hostages John Buchan (Penguin £2.95) Four Hannay novels published simultaneously and coincidentally with the risible television series. The books have the enduring appeal of anachronisrn.

I Border Country, Second Generation and The Fight for Manod Raymond Williams (Hogarth Press £5.95 and £4.95) Trilogy ranging from Wales pre- 1926 General Strike to the EEC and corporate chicanery in the late ‘705 by the eminent literary Lefty who died at the end ofJanuary. Clash ofcultures. class and countries.

. __l

50 The List 5 - 18 February 1988