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Forgetting Elena And Nocturnes For The King Of Naples [Paperback]

Edmund White
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Aug 1984
Combining glittering wit, an atmosphere dense in social paranoia, and a breathtaking elegance and precision of language, White's first novel suggests a hilarious apotheosis of the comedy of manners. For, on the privileged island community where Forgetting Elena takes place, manners are everything. Or so it seems to White's excruciatingly self-conscious young narrator who desperately wants to be accepted in this world where everything from one's bathroom habits to the composition of "spontaneous" poetry is subject to rigid conventions.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (10 Aug 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033028374X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330283748
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 532,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Icy and exquisite 10 Jan 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a slim, lush novel set on Fire Island in the 1960's, and written years before the plague of AIDS. Its subject is the intoxicating, intimidating, seductive, and ultimately cruelly destructive hip gay demimonde: the ruling class there -- and its "subjects." Gifted and kind-hearted novelist-critic-memoirist-teacher Edmund White's first novel, and the one that got him noticed, then praised by Nabokov and many others. It describes a lost world, but has much to say about the one remaining. Beautifully constructed and definitely worth reading.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
White's first novel is a fascinating study of an obsessive mind in action. The narrator, who lives on an island that in some ways resembles Fire Island, is a compulsive amnesiac who is apparently terrified to admit to anyone that he doesn't know who he is or what his relationship is to the people around him. It is clear he would feel embarassed if anyone found out. But as he attempts to determine his status in this highly stratified society, it is clear that its values are very much a part of his subconscious.
Truly a book in which form reflects content, the style of the writing is self-conscious and always exquisitely phrased. This book is not for everyone. For me, however, this novel is one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. It is simultaneously a mystery, a comedy of manners and a haunting love story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable 2 July 2014
By Joey
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
These two stories plus A Boy's Own Story form an unforgettably dense, rich and poetic trilogy. They formed a lasting impression only matched by the work of Patrick White.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated florid monstrosity 13 April 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Two readings straight through, back to back, and I still couldn't figure out what anyone sees in this overwrought piffle.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect work 13 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A vanished gay culture and setting (recognizably The Pines in the 1960s) transformed into an icy fantasy, with details borrowed from the ceremonial court life of ancient Japan and Java. An amnesiac narrator finds himself in an imaginary island society, at once funny and horrific, where refined, ever-changing rules govern the slightest action. He must somehow deduce his own identity from the enigmatic offhand remarks of others around him while not giving himself away.
Though infused with a gay sensibility, this is not a "gay book". In it, obsessive aestheticism and obsessive love face each other, gradually becoming deadly enemies.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. 18 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
White's first novel is a fascinating study of an obsessive mind in action. The narrator, who lives on an island that in some ways resembles Fire Island, is a compulsive amnesiac who is apparently terrified to admit to anyone that he doesn't know who he is or what his relationship is to the people around him. It is clear he would feel embarassed if anyone found out. But as he attempts to determine his status in this highly stratified society, it is clear that its values are very much a part of his subconscious.
Truly a book in which form reflects content, the style of the writing is self-conscious and always exquisitely phrased. This book is not for everyone. For me, however, this novel is one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. It is simultaneously a mystery, a comedy of manners and a haunting love story.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enigmatic tale works on several levels 4 May 2000
By Jonathan Mayhew - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a classic novel, and one that works on several levels. A satire of Fire Island gay culture? Yes, but it works even if you have no idea that this is what the book is supposed to be "about," as I didn't when I first read it years ago. The prose is seamlessly perfect, and the device of the amnesiac narrator, which shouldn't work, actually does.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Icy and exquisite 10 Jan 1998
By Eileen Galen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a slim, lush novel set on Fire Island in the 1960's, and written years before the plague of AIDS. Its subject is the intoxicating, intimidating, seductive, and ultimately cruelly destructive hip gay demimonde: the ruling class there -- and its "subjects." Gifted and kind-hearted novelist-critic-memoirist-teacher Edmund White's first novel, and the one that got him noticed, then praised by Nabokov and many others. It describes a lost world, but has much to say about the one remaining. Beautifully constructed and definitely worth reading.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forgetting Elena 17 Dec 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is not an easy book. It is striking and memorable. If you read it more for the immediate effect of the imagery rather than try to figure out a plot or the characters, it is much more rewarding. I'm not knowledgeable about the model of Fire Island society but that is secondary anyway. If you are looking for a real page-turner, this book is not for you. If you read slowly and visualize what the author describes, you will be amply rewarded.This book may be about life on a beach but it is not a "beach book."
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