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The Beautiful Room is Empty (Picador Books) Paperback – 18 Nov 1988

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Paperback, 18 Nov 1988
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (18 Nov. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330304372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330304375
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.1 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 610,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mike Cormack on 9 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable book. The second in Edmund White's autobiographical trilogy (following "A Boy's Own Story", a growing-up-gay novel, and succeeded by "The Farewell Symphony", about the onset of the AIDS crisis), this follows the un-named narrator through his days at a prep school, through college and into New York, up until the Stonewall Riots.

What I find particularly enjoyable about White is the lushness of his prose; it's so sensually enjoyable, comparable to Nabokov. It really brings alive the physical sensations of the narrator, whilst there is an intellectual ballast to the novel which is equally prominent but never overwhelming. White is as comfortable dealing with ideas as he is with physical descriptions, a rare combination. There is a trajectory of increasing warmth throughout, starting from the "deep freeze" of the prep school, which only ever seems to be in Winter, and the art students nearby are wonderfully described as working alone in the cold, with mittens to warm their hands, an apt metaphor for the isolation of intellectuals and artists in the Eisenhower 50s.

As he progresses through college, things heat up, literally and metaphorically; he meets people that help him to develop, and he starts to at on his sexual compulsions, although still in a solitary and loveless fashion. College life, the fraternities and faculty life are skillfully evoked, characters always vibrant - "Mick" is particularly memorable, as is William Everett Hunton.

But the most important character is Lou, an addict and writer, an introduction to bohemia. Like Allen Ginsberg, although from a completely different tradition, White is remarkably unselfconscious about describing sexual activity, with an unflinching eye.
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Format: Hardcover
Edmund White is arguably the greatest novelist who presents the gay condition. Beuatifully written, human in its understanding and stunning in its beauty. Has to be read if you have not done so.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very well written and a good idea of what was happening to gay men in the US in the 1960s
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 6 Sept. 2002
Format: Paperback
what can i say? I've just finished the beautiful room is empty and i am so impressed. Its the second part in Edmund Whites autobiographical trilogy.
It follows White's thoughts on coming out in 1950's America. Having to live in a time were being gay was a thing to be deeply ashamed about. It follows his experiences in crusing, his self revultion and his desperate search to be in love.
The writing is wonderful, very funny and incredibaly personel. I cant wait to get stuck into the final book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 24 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Relive a writer's hypnotic youth 16 Sept. 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the majestic second autobiographical novel by Edmund White, told with such elegent honesty that one is simply entranced by each scene.
I don't believe that this novel is better in any arguable way than A Boy's Own Story. The first book in White's autobiographical series is just as serious, but less enjoyable, simply because adolescence is SO much more interesting (for me at least) than the childhood White dealt with before. Both books illustrate (with great candor!) their respective periods of life (and the author's specific grappling). But it's just that this is when it "gets good" for me, when the protagonist is more sophisticated.
Edmund White paints with honesty a believable portrait of life as he has lived it. Of course, his own experiences differ significantly from certain scenes in his novels, but nonetheless, he writes with blunt honesty, which is often the way we experience life: bluntly. A quote characteristic of White:
"Because a novel -these words- is a shared experience, a clumsy but sometimes funny conversation between two people in which one of them is doing all the talking, it will always be tighter and more luminous than that object called living. There is something so insipid about living that to do it at all requires heroism or stupidity, probably both. Living is all those days and years, the rushes; memory edits them; this page is the final print, music added. But for an instant imagine the process reversed, go with me back through the years, then be me, me all alone as I submit to the weight, the atomospheric pressure of youth, for when I was young I was exhausted by always bumping up against this big lummox I didn't really know, myself."
White has a flair for the everyday things. He makes them seem beautiful, horrible; they are the little things, and this author writes them down in their warts-and-all glory.
A previous reviewer said that reading this book is much like experiencing a grand opera while sitting in the bathroom, "a darkly exciting, unorthodox and revealing artistic encounter that one would curiously find oneself wanting to revisit". It's a very insightful comment and best tells the potential reader what he awaits.
Edmund White's prose will sweep you along to relive part of his youth along with him. I can say nothing more but read this book!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
You CAN go home again! 14 Dec. 2000
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Being in a mood of reverence for Edmund White's biographies of Jean Genet and Marcel Proust and having enjoyed "The Married Man", I have returned to White's career-making novels and find that they not only withstand the test of time, they are indeed truly even finer novels than remembered. "The Beautiful Room Is Empty" is the best summation of the agonies of growing into adulthood and finding that niche of destiny as any book around. But not only is this one man's journey to self acceptance, it is a journal of sociologic change that peaked in the Stonewall Bar and forever changed the way sexuality is viewed, lived and accepted. White's descriptive powers are at their peak as is his ability to draw characters so believeable that they seem like old personal acquaintances. And they are that....for those who met them in 1988 when this book first burst on the scene. This is history, psychology, a dissection and appreciation about Love all eloquently and entertainingly told by a master craftsman!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Beautiful Room 4 Aug. 2002
By B. Morse - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Edmund White's 'Beautiful Room' is a moving, wonderful story, crafted around the late teens to late twenties of the narrator, known only as 'Bunny' to his friend Lou, one of the many lively, memorable characters encountered along the way, as well as Tex, a flaboyant bookstore owner, who gives 'Bunny' his earliest education in 'gay slang.'
'Bunny', at the beginning of the novel, is a prep-school student coming to terms with his homosexuality, by engaging in anonymous sexual encounter after encounter in the boy's bathrooms, where his lovers are seen only from waistline to knees. He dresses and plays the part of the dutiful prep school student by day, but once class is out, he drifts toward the bohemians, gracing the coffee shops of their 1950's and 60's lives, watching them paint, sharing their surrealist literature and poetry, and secretly lusting after the males. A child of divorced parents, his father determined to make a man out of him, his mother convinced that all he needs is a cure, the narrator carries us along on his ride, meeting many notable characters along the way, that shape and influence his gradual acceptance that he is gay.
Following his school years, when he enters the work force and the real world, the words of a school-friend come back to haunt him, that 'some day he will have too much freedom,' freedom to choose where he goes, what he does, and who he is. He drifts along from job to job, from lover to lover, Lou, Fred, and the frequent pick-ups from Christoper Street, until he meets Sean, a closeted young man who leads 'Bunny' to question his own identity as they both enter group therapy to try and overcome their 'illness' and go straight, with very different results.
Culminating at the famous Stonewall site, Edmund White provides readers with a grand tour-de-force of growing up gay in the 50's and 60's in Chicago and New York.
Sometimes poignant, sometimes emotional, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, 'Beautiful Room' is a beautiful book, with a beautiful story to tell. The narrator, presumably White himself, as the book is supposed to be autobiographical, slips from identity to identity as he tries to find his own. Young and unsure of himself, he tries to be what everyone else wants him to be until he finds himself.
Although this story centers on a gay man, the book speaks volumes to anyone struggling to find their own identity, and the choices and mistakes we all make along the way.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Magic 8 Oct. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Reading Edmund White's work is, I suppose, what experiencing grand opera in a latrine would probably be like - a darkly exciting, unorthodox and revealing artistic encounter that one would curiously find oneself wanting to revisit. 'The Beautiful Room Is Empty' - like its successor 'The Farewell Symphony' - is sumptuous, exquisitely paced and compels its possessed possessor to gluttonously read and re-read its skilfully connected, intricately descriptive, abjectly human and majestically imaginative scenes.
Xen Andreas
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Satisfying Addition 22 Jun. 2001
By Ricky Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Beautiful Room is Empty by Edmund White is a wonderful additon to the inspired A Boy's Own Story. It is not exactly a sequel but it does loosely form the middle in a semi-autobiographical trilogy (between A Boy's Own Story and A Farewll Symphony). All can be read and enjoyed on their own but also fit together smoothly to take the reader through different times in the life of a gay man. This volume takes the reader from the repressive fifties into the time of Stonewall as the main character grows from a young man in the midwestern college into a gay urbanite going to the gym. The growth of the narrator is more honest and well written than in many gay novels and will resonate with the reader with painful or humourous , at different times, recognition whether he grew up in that era or not. It is a fine novel that plays all the right notes.
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