A celebration of love
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