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Genet: A Biography
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About the Author

Edmund White was born in Cincinnati in 1940. His previous books include Forgetting Elena, Nocturnes for the King of Naples, States of Desire: Travels in Gay America, A Boy's Own Story, Caracole and The Beautiful Room Is Empty. He lives in Paris.

Reviews

French writer Jean Genet (1910-86) was a petty thief who produced some of the most revolutionary novels and plays of our time. White's massive biography illuminates the life and works of this ``deeply contradictory man,'' although many events from his early years of vagabondage and prostitution are beyond retrieval. A greater mystery--which even White, an accomplished novelist ( A Boy's Own Story , LJ 9/1/82; The Beautiful Room Is Empty , LJ 3/1/88), cannot solve--is how someone of Genet's limited education could have produced a first novel of such magnitude as Our Lady of the Flowers ( LJ 11/1/63). (Parallels with the case of Shakespeare are not far-fetched.) This work is a labor of love and admiration. Essential for collections of modern literature. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/93.-- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.

'Dazzling. Genet has found a scrupulous, meticulous chronicler in Edmund White.' -- Philip Henscher, The Guardian

'An absorbing and magisterial biography...a labor of love in every sense. A comparable achievement [is] Richard Ellmann's biography of Oscar Wilde.' -- John Bayley, The Evening Standard 'Elegant, meticulous and wholly satisfying.' -- Brian Masters, The Sunday telegraph 'White has caught the uncatchable man -- the public Genet as well as the recluse: no better praise can be given a biographer.' -- Paul Bailey, The Daily Telegraph

In this massive biography White gets well inside the skin of the great French writer widely known for his sensational novels, Our Lady of the Flowers and A Thief's Journal (both written in the 1940s but not published in the U.S. until two decades later), and his plays, The Maids and The Blacks . White is a master at illuminating the connections between Genet's (1910-1986) life and creative output; as a novelist himself, White ( The Beautiful Room Is Empty ) offers brilliant insight into the way experience is transformed into art. His most vivid passages fill in crucial blanks often left by literary critics in search of the source and ultimate meaning of a writer's contributions. Also valuable is White's painstaking delineation of Genet's often unpopular political involvements--he supported the Black Panthers and later in his career the Palestinians--as well as his uneasy position among French intellectuals of the postwar period. White's frank and stylish account of Genet's erotic life is not for the squeamishly heterosexual, as those familiar with Genet's works (or White's for that matter) will know, for rarely have a writer's life and work been so erotically connected as Genet's. In a biography of this length, there are inevitably moments when the biographer's concentration appears to flag and events pile up with little analysis. Yet among the pleasures here is that White's prose largely matches the seductive allure of his subject's. Photos. (Oct.)

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