Friday, October 16, 2009

My thoughts on A Boy's Own Story

A few months back a good friend of mine suggested I read A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White. Herman, my husband, was lucky enough to find a used volume on Amazon for a few bucks. I was excited. It took me a long time to read it because the prose is so wonderfully descriptive that I wanted to take my time and savor the read.

The story told a gay boy’s tale from his early years of wanting to be intimate with his father, through a long and boring period of adolescence and puberty, and ending with his first sexual experience with an older man.

I finished it a few days ago, and I must say I did not enjoy the read. Yes, the rich, descriptive prose was often a joy, but it became a drag on the pacing of the story, which as far as I could tell, wandered aimlessly about with no clear structure or purpose.

This story, more so than any other I’ve read, brought home the idea that a good novel is more that pretty words and descriptions on the page. The ability to paint colorful pictures with words is not enough. A good novel has structure, pacing, and a plot with characters that lead the reader to examine his/her own life experiences.

Many people I’ve talked to think this is a great book, perhaps a masterpiece, but I certainly was not impressed, and I will think twice before selecting another Edmund White story.


Steven Capsuto said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought this novel was dull and unengaging. I bought it when it first came out after reading a positive writeup in Library Journal or some similar publication.

A friend tells me that other books of his are much better, but in the 20+ years since I bought this one I haven't felt the urge to look at them. It's a shame, because I remember thinking he seemed like an interesting guy when I saw him interviewed on PBS in the 80s or 90s.

AlanChinWriter said...

So glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks this book is unengaging. (I like that word. It sums that book up perfectly.)

Thanks for your input.