In Edmund White's most moving novel yet, an American living in Paris finds his life transformed by an unexpected love affair.
Austin Smith is pushing fifty, loveless and drifting, until one day he meets Julien, a much younger, married Frenchman. In the beginning, the lovers' only impediments are the comic clashes of culture, age, and temperament. Before long, however, the past begins to catch up with them. In a desperate quest to save health and happiness, they move from Venice to Key West, from Montreal in the snow to Providence in the rain. But it is amid the bleak, baking sands of the Sahara that their love is pushed to its ultimate crisis.
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Edmund White majored in sexual explicitness with his boldly autobiographical trilogy-- A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, and The Farewell Symphony. Now, explicitly as ever, he trains his unflinching eye on a new subject: a young man's death from AIDS. Austin is a fiftysomething American expat in Paris; Julien is a young married man he meets at the gym. Much to Austin's surprise, Julien calls him and soon they are sharing a bed and a life. The Married Man is White's Henry James novel: the first couple hundred pages show us a satirical portrait of young Julien as a stuffy Frenchman and a more elliptical portrait of Austin's apprehension of French culture through his lover. With Julien, "Austin was always learning things, not necessarily reasoned or researched information but rather all those thousands and thousands of brand names, turns of phrase, aversions and anecdotes that make up a culture as surely as do the moves in a child's game of hopscotch."
But White wants to take us all the way to the end of this relationship. Austin is HIV positive, and it soon becomes clear that Julien has AIDS. As Julien's health unravels, the two travel to Providence, to Key West, to Venice, to Rome, and ultimately to Morocco. The author coins a darkly appropriate phrase for this urge to move: he calls it "AIDS-restlessness." White, in fact, unveils a whole gallery of startling images as Julien nears death. Julien is "the bowler hat descending into the live volcano." Thin and brown and bearded, he looks "like the Ottoman Empire in a turn-of-the-century political cartoon." Though he can't read it, Julien acquires a copy of the Koran. "It was the perfect book for a weary, dying man--pious, incomprehensible pages to strum, an ink cloud of unknowing." White has found a language both magical and clinical to describe a horrible death. --Claire DedererFrom the Publisher :
"A shrewd social observer with a great gift for dialogue, White composes quicksilver scenes bright with wit, then sets aside comedy-of-manners for the luster of tragedy. . . . A creative act that, in White's exquisite rendering, exemplifies love."
-- Booklist (starred review)
"Effortless narrative velocity. . . . A wise, sorrowful tale."
-- Kirkus (starred review)
"This Jamesian turn continues in the tale of Austin Smith. . . . [White's] descriptions of Paris, Venice and Morocco are infused with an almost Matisse-like sensuality. . . . In the perspicuity of White's art [even] Julien, dying in Morocco, evokes pathos and terror, bestowing this love story with a classically tragic aura."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Although it's essentially about the mutability and elusiveness of human relationships, The Married Man is also a comically observant look at the way identity fractures along the fault lines of nationality, gender and class."
-- Time Out New York
"White really has performed some sort of alchemy. The Married Man is undoubtedly one of his best novels. The prose is lyrical. . . . We are left with writing that is truly supple, adapting itself to comedy or tragedy as required . . . An unexpectedly heartening novel."
-- Sunday Times (London)
"White is a worthy heir of that earlier anatomist of the transatlantic relationship, Henry James--subtle, complex, unsparing and profound."
-- Tom Holland, London Daily Telegraph
"Written with characteristic brilliance and the particular flair for poetic detail that so distinguishes his books, Edmund White's new novel is arguably his best to date. . . . The great elegist of an aids-devastated generation . . . far from being a depressing book, White's novel is marvelously life-affirming. . . . Nobody since Proust has written so well of Paris and paid such scrupulous attention to visual detail. . . . In short, nothing less than brilliant."
-- Jeremy Reed, London Times
"A superb novel . . . Here, as in White's other novels, the gay world, with its complicated codes and hierarchies, makes perfect literary sense."
-- The Evening Standard
"A finely written, closely observed and very moving portrait of a doomed love affair . . . a compelling piece of storytelling."
-- Literary Review
"Told in sensible, stripped-down prose, this is a beautiful story of love amid the threat of impending loss."
-- The Independent
"The Married Man is a page turner, informed at every turn by Edmund White's all-inclusive and compassionate genius. Most of all, it is a devastating love story in which nothing quite turns out as one expects. We enter the lover's journey unprepared for Julien's final words; we put down the novel unable to forget them."
-- Peter Carey
"The Married Man is one of the most powerful, candid, devastating, and moving novels I've read in recent years. It is both beautifully written and unsparing in its honesty."
-- Joyce Carol Oates
"Edmund White is a great writer, and in The Married Man he is at the height of his powers: moving, funny, and a brilliant social analyst."
-- Diane Johnson
"Edmund White writes with so much brilliance and so much heart, I defy any reader to resist this love story."
-- Melissa Bank
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