Throughout his career, expatriate writer Edmund White has brought a sensual richness and intellectual rigor to the printed page. From his 1973 debut as the 33-year-old novelist of the Nabokov-praised masterpiece, Forgetting Elena, to the recently edited 1991 edition of the Faber & Faber anthology of short gay fiction, Edmund White has exerted a considerable influence in international literary circles. Published widely in England, America and France, White has taught at Columbia and Yale, and in 1983 was the recipient of a Guggenheim grant. He is currently on staff at Brown University, and is back in Paris completing a colossal five-year project – a critical biography of Jean Genet. White speaks to the Free Voice of his life and work.
Every year busloads of French school children and tourists from around the globe make the day trip north from Paris to visit the clearing at Rothondes where the Armistice was signed in a railroad car at the end of World War I. All along the road, just an hour from Paris, an impressive number of medieval churches, monasteries and graceful châteaux dot the rolling hills of Picardy. A few miles from the famous clearing, the Museum of Franco-American Cooperation celebrates friendship between the two nations. Housed in the 17th-century château of Blérancourt, the museum’s art collection, special exhibitions and extensive documentation trace more than 200 years of Franco-American relations.
The plot is high youth unemployment and crowded housing, the subplot, the disenfranchisement of minorities, and the opening scenes of the drama are neighborhood riots and high school violence. Somewhere in the background a rap music sound track heightens tension…
Overdeveloped though the Cote d’Azur may be, it can still offer almost hidden pockets of charm and history, like Eze, a tiny walled village perched on the top of a 1400-foot peak overlooking the Mediterranean. Continue reading “Travel: Visiting the Village of Eze”
Be aware of the ides of March. That’s the time when conversations turn from snow and downhill runs to sunny villages and weekend getaways…and southern France. This region, known as Provence, offers a remarkable range of springtime destinations such as Avignon, Arles and Orange. Continue reading “Arles & Avignon: Weekend Getaway”
Feature, February 1991
“It flatters you for a while,” wrote Madame de Sévigne, a.k.a. ‘la Marquise de Chocolat.’ “It warms you for an instant, then all of a sudden it kindles a mortal fever in you.” Continue reading “French chocolates”
“The American in Paris” has lost its lustre in a matter of a few long and nasty weeks. I think of Fred Astaire tapping along the cobblestone streets of Montmartre in that frivolous 1951 Academy Award winning classic, An American in Paris, and feel with disturbing, ironic intensity the tidal wave of effects that the War in the Gulf has brought upon us.
Commentary, December 1990
The segue between endings and beginnings always provokes some sort of cosmic re-evaluation of positions. In a world of intense specificity and specialization, we have to invent occasions to be philosophic. Semesters, projects, jobs, issues, budgets, relationships, governments, years… Continue reading “Notes on the status of hope”
Architects are visionaries. Ever since Romulus slew his brother for the right to create the Eternal City, thinkers and design¬ers of urban life have not ceased to envision cities whose buildings, monuments, and thorough¬fares would not only serve (or control) city-dwellers, but also exalt the rulers and astonish travellers. But the multitudinous visions create a labyrinth of choices: to create flat cities? high cities? glass cities? green cities? Between utopias and dystopias, how can one determine which visions of life are best?
Commentary, May 1990
Inspiration rarely takes practicality into consideration. Inevi-tably you’re in a hurry, pencil-less, and half-asleep, in a check-out line with five kilos of dog food, when the stuff creeps into your life and transports you. And sometimes it’s at high speeds in the presence of sublime banality. Continue reading “Burying Molière in New York”
Imagine 2,068,000 Parisians crammed into 105 km (not including 11 km of bones that lie under Paris in the catacombs) with 500,000 or so dogs (4760 dogs per km). This means you have about a 1 in 4 chance that a Parisian you hear complaining about graffiti is a dog owner. And this dog owner will be ignorant of the fact that although 4,000,000F go annually to cleaning up graffiti, 34,000,000F are spent cleaning up the canine land mines laid all over town. 20 metric tons of dog truffles daily. Some of it is sucked up by those green vacuum cleaner-equipped motorcycles, some of it swept into gutters by the 12,000 branch brooms and 30,000 plastic branch brooms, and then washed out of sight, out of mind down many of Paris’ 18,000 sewer drains. Instead, wouldn’t it be interesting to each day pick out 20 different dog owners and leave a metric ton on each of their doorsteps. It would take 68 years to reward each dog owner- not a likely prospect.