A cel­e­bra­tion of love

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Kevin Ra­bal­ais

In­side a Pearl: My Years in Paris By Ed­mund White Blooms­bury, 261pp, $29.99 BY its na­ture, a great book about Paris, city of end­less el­e­gance and en­chant­ment, should se­duce the reader with its style. To open In­side a Pearl, the fourth of Ed­mund White’s de­light­ful and il­lu­mi­nat­ing mem­oirs, is akin to sit­ting be­side a bril­liant racon­teur. From the start, the voice cap­ti­vates. The im­pec­ca­ble man­ners be­guile even when — and of­ten due to — the Amer­i­can au­thor is candid about the thou­sands of lovers he claims with­out boast.

Typ­i­cal among White’s en­gross­ing body of work, In­side a Pearl reads like a cul­tural primer re­plete with high-end gos­sip about the ma­jor fig­ures in the worlds of lit­er­a­ture, art, fash­ion and film with whom he has in­ter­sected.

Those are only a few rea­sons this chron­i­cle of White’s 15 years in Paris proves en­thralling. White — bi­og­ra­pher of Proust, Genet and Rim­baud; au­thor of The Fla­neur: A Stroll Through the Para­doxes of Paris; and ac­claimed nov­els such as A Boy’s Own Story and, most re­cently, Jack Holmes and His Friend — moved to Paris in 1983. Cre­den­tials from Vogue mag­a­zine and an as­sign­ment to write about French cul­ture paved ac­cess to a life most vis­i­tors only glimpse in the pages of that or sim­i­larly slick ri­val mag­a­zines.

White is a true man of letters, and his body of work in­cludes nearly 30 works of fic­tion, mem­oirs, non­fic­tion, drama and an­tholo­gies. His so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, recorded here in ir­re­sistible prose, force the reader to won­der how he man­aged to main­tain such steady pro­duc­tion.

Al­ready the au­thor of three nov­els and coau­thor of The Joy of Gay Sex by 1983, White ar­rives in Paris with a lan­guage deficit and a mere two ac­quain­tances. He gains en­tree into Parisian so­ci­ety through — to name one gate­keeper — James Lord, bi­og­ra­pher and in­ti­mate of Gi­a­cometti and Pi­casso. Soon, White at­tains flu­ency in French and a grow­ing so­cial cir­cle

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