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Jack Holmes and His Friend [Paperback]

Edmund White
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Jan 2013

Jack Holmes is suffering from unrequited love. It doesn't look as if there will ever be anyone else he falls for: the other men he takes to bed never stay for long.

Jack's friend Will Wright comes from old stock, has aspirations to be a writer and, like Jack, works on the Northern Review. Jack will introduce Will to the beautiful, brittle young woman he will marry, but is discreet about his own adventures in love - for this is sixties New York, literary and intense, before gay liberation; a concoction of old society, bohemians rich and poor, sleek European immigrants and transplanted Midwesterners. Against this charged backdrop, the different lives of Jack and Will intertwine, and as their loves come and go, they will always be, at the very least, friends.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408830272
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408830277
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Edmund White has three voices. First there is the storyteller, relaxed, conversational, an anecdotalist, an inspired flaneur. Then there is the poet: on every page there lies in wait a metaphor of startling precision, an image that holds and reattracts the eye. And then there is the laic philosopher, who observes human life from the highest altitudes, held aloft by vast infusions of erudition and experience. In Jack Holmes and His Friend, White's trio is in frictionless accord (Martin Amis)

This comedy of sexual manners may be White's finest novel (Sunday Times)

Wise, funny, sympathetic and richly entertaining novel (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

There's a sleek, close-shaved quality to White's prose that in passages gives it the warm lubicriousness of early Updike and the dry martini sting of Cheever (Financial Times)

It will make you smile with admiration (Evening Standard)

Marks White out as an immensely gifted chronicler of the intricacies of the human heart (Alex Clark, Guardian)

Lucid and powerful ... White is a novelist of great insight (Philip Hensher, Daily Telegraph)

An elegant study of the paradoxes and half-truths that emerge in long-standing friendships (New Yorker)

White's talent remains undiminished (Daily Mail)

Book Description

A moving, expertly-crafted novel from one of New York's most prolific and well-respected authors

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Experience is a Hard School 14 Jan 2012
By Entartete Musik TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
With love and sex comes great responsibility. Or at least that's the theory. For Jack and Will it's a lesson that neither learns well. Their friendship is the backbone of White's Jack Holmes and his Friend. Both characters profess attractive traits but neither is particularly attractive. What unfolds between them is a gripping satire of shabby bourgeois manners.

At first, White plays with expectation and gives us a coming out novel, with Jack Holmes as its goofy protagonist. Labouring under the weight of his genitalia, he frightens straight girls and attracts gay men in equal measure. You often feel that the only reason Jack ends up gay is because he gets a kick from the envious admiration of other less well-endowed boys. He takes chances, capitalises on trust, but Jack is thrillingly ordinary.

He falls head over heels for a similarly plain Will. Straight, urbane, but lacking glamour, Jack finds comfort in their easy repartee and drink-filled agenda. Having written a terrible novel, Will lapses into suburban marriage, while Jack stumbles into and then embraces promiscuity. In many ways there's nothing original about White's tale; like its characters, the narrative rejoices in mediocrity with the merest hint of Mad Men-style vermouth.

Within those prosaic bounds, however, White uncovers great poetry. Adjectivally sparse, his text is peppered with pin-point metaphors and rich observations of social and sexual interaction. The selfishness of his protagonists is always undercut by a mordant fascination with their myopia. Morality is fluid, but emotions remain the same and they flap and falter for our delight. There's great warmth too, but gay or straight, the rules are the same.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force. 31 Jan 2012
By Steve
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For me, this is White's best book in a while. It centres round two characters - Jack (gay) and Will (straight) and situates both of them evocatively in their 1960s/70s period in a fashionable New York. The other characters in the book are vivid and credible and White conjures up a whole world of a society at work, play and under all the pressures of human life. The thing I liked best, apart from White's genius with words, is the fact that both central characters are not extraordinary either as people or in their respective professions; yet their stories are compelling. I was also very taken with the fact that Jack does not have a great awakening to being gay; it just sort of happens. Many of us will have been there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nasty bunch with style 14 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well, White is an excellent writer - well into the Top Ten in his genre - and that shines through. Which, alas, is more than the characters do. There is not ONE person to admire. Not ONE who is sympathetic. Not ONE who you root for - though there is a lot of rooting in this one way or another.

Gay loves straight and friends and lives link over the decades.

I did enjoy it and read it quickly but can't say it is more than three stars. The utter flaw and White should know better is leaping the point of view from the gay to the straight - so just as we are into a character he leaps off - just does not work. We pay good prices for White books - I will buy again because he is a fine writer but he needs to work harder on the structure.

Still suggest you read it...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful novel about friendship... 27 Jan 2012
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Edmund White's new novel, "Jack Holmes and His Friend", is the story of a long-term friendship between two men, one straight and one gay. The story, told in two voices - one in the third person and the other's Jack's friend Will Wright. The story - set in New York City - moves forward in time from the late 1950's/early 1960's to the late 1970's/early 1980's and finally to the mid 1990's (Princess Diana is mentioned so I presume it's before her death).

Jack Holmes is a young man-on-the-move, attends the University of Michigan after spending years in a boarding school. The story of his home life is somewhat murky, but he appears not to have been close to his parents. At the time the reader meets Jack, he's in college and trying to figure out his sexual preferences. Is he straight? Is he gay? Or is he somewhere in the middle? He graduates from college and moves to New York to begin a career in publishing. He has friends and acquaintances, but in general he is somewhat aloof from his surroundings. At his first job - "The Northern Review" (meant to be "The Paris Review", I think) - he meets another young man, Will Wright, who has also come to New York City to seek his fame as a writer. Jack is gay and Will is straight and Jack has a life-long crush on Will.

But Jack introduces Will to another friend, Alexandra, and the two fall in love and marry and move to the suburbs. The friendship between Jack and Will enters a period of hibernation, which ends when the three meet up again. Will, by this time the father of two children with Alex, is bored with his life and is in the mood for a sexual dalliance. Jack "fixes" Will up with another friend, Pia, and she and Will begin an affair.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story follows pivotal events in the life of Jack Holmes, a handsome guy with ample opportunities, who develops feelings for another man he meets in his roe working for a paper.

The story follows the lives of the two men as their lives entwine at different stages of their personal and professional lives.

The book is very beautifully written, drawing on the emotional and at times erotic feelings of both men as well as the women connected within their lives.
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