Edmund White to speak on campus

The "Writer's Writer Series" hosts lesser-known authors.

By Jared Sichel | Section: Jan 29th, 2010 Issues, January 29th 2010 Print, News

Acclaimed novelist and literary critic Edmund White will be the featured guest at the next installment of the Creative Writing Fund’s Writer’s Writer Series 7 - 8:30 p.m. Feb. 1 in Woldenberg Art Center’s Freeman Auditorium.

The series hosts authors who are well-established, yet not as well-known as mainstream authors, like those in the Great Writers Series.

White plans to read from one of his memoirs. He currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University and is best known for his semi-autobiographical memoirs, including the trilogy composed of “A Boy’s Own Story,” “The Beautiful Room is Empty” and “The Farewell Symphony.”

The trilogy marks his evolution from a young adult coming to terms with his homosexuality in the ’50s, to a participant in the Greenwich Village Stonewall riots in 1969, and a man experiencing late adulthood in the ’90s.

The Stonewall riots — named for the police raid at the Stonewall Inn that initiated the riots and marked a turning point for gay rights in the United States — are a common motif throughout White’s works.

“City Boy” recounts his arrival in Manhattan amidst rejecting a Ph.D. offer from Harvard and becoming openly gay. White was initially reluctant to participate in what became the first major gay-community revolt against government mistreatment.

In “City Boy,” White writes, “There was no ‘gay pride’ back then — there was only gay fear and gay isolation.”

He has also written about pre-AIDS gay America in “States of Desire.”

Tulane creative writing professor Thomas Beller, who serves on the fund’s committee that brings authors such as White to New Orleans, notes that listening to an author read from an autobiography offers a unique opportunity that is usually only available in literary centers such as Manhattan.

“It’s fascinating just to see how they comport themselves, how their spoken voice might inflect what you have previously read of theirs,” Beller said.

Beller also said he admires White’s ability to use his intellectual depth and mastery of the English language in weaving autobiographies into a memoir such as “City Boy.”

Senior Daniel Ehlers is an English major at Tulane whose entire creative writing class plans to attend the event.

One of the reasons that people go to such an upscale university is to get these kinds of experiences and to get these kinds of speakers to come,” Ehlers said.

Abbie Dufrene, a sophomore majoring in English, said she was impressed by White’s success and was grateful for a chance to hear him speak.

It not only takes talent, but also entrepreneurship to reach the level that Edmund White has,” Dufrene said. “The worth of his advice can apply to anyone who hopes to climb any sort of professional ladder.”
Tulane’s creative writing fund hosted Macarthur Genius Grant winner Deborah Eisenberg for the Writer’s Writer stories last semester.

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