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AN INTERVIEW WITH EDMUND WHITE Edmund White© Thomas Victor Author of The Beautiful Room is Empty (Knopf)· Edmund White's critically acclaimed fiction has earned him a number of honors and awards during his career. He has twice received the Hopwood Awards (1961 and 1962), Ingram Merrill grants (1973 and 1978), was a Guggenheim fellow in 1983, and in that same year received the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters award for fiction. His major works include five novels, Forgetting Elena, Nocturnes for the King of Naples, A Boy's Own Story, Caracole, and The Beautiful Room is Empty as well as a short story collection, The Darker Proof, a play, "The Blue Boy in Black," and the nonfiction Argument for a Myth. He is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, as well. After being based in Paris for a number of years, Mr. White has returned to join the faculty at Brown University, where he currently teaches. This interview was conducted by Kay Bonetti, Director of the American Audio Prose Library series, on June 2, 1989 at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The Prose Library offers tapes of American authors reading and discussing their work. For information contact AAPL at PO Box 842, Columbia, MO 65205. An Interview with Edmund White /Kay Bonetti Interviewer: Mr. White, can you fiU us in on some background about yourself? Do A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty foUow your own chronology? White: The books fairly reflect where I was and what I was doing. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. My parents got divorced when I was seven and my mother began to move from city to city whUe my father remained in Cincinnati. I was sent to a boarding school in Michigan, near Detroit, a school called Cranbrook, which appears as Eton in my books. Interviewer: And you went to the University of Michigan? White: I studied Chinese there, and when I graduated I moved to New York and worked for Time-Life Books from 1962 to 1970. Then I moved to Rome for a year, and when I came back, I became a freelance writer and editor, then worked briefly for Saturday Review and Horizon. I started teaching in the mid-seventies, first at Yale, then at Johns Hopkins, finally at Columbia and New York University. In 1981 I was the executive director of The New York Institute for the Humanities, which is an organization of smart people attached to New York University. Then in 1983, I moved to France, where I've been living ever since. Beginning in spring, 1990, I wUl be teaching at Brown University, where I've just been named a Professor of English with tenure. Interviewer: There's a story in The Darker Proof about a couple that move to Paris in an obUque response to the gay community and AIDS. Did you move to Paris for similar reasons? White: In a way I gave some of the events of my Ufe to those characters, but the reasons were different. In my case, I won a The Missouri Review · 91 Guggenheim, which aUowed me to go for one year. I worked for Vogue and other Condé-Nast magazines as a journaüst, so that aUowed me to stay on. I could stay forever I suppose. I have a nice apartment and I make a decent living as a freelance American journaUst writing from Paris. Interviewer: Then why are you coming back to teaching? White: I Uke teaching. I Uke the idea of a secure position. I'm positive for AIDS, and the statistics are rather grim, but if by some chance I do go on living I would Uke to have a retirement plan. I support my mother now, and if I weren't there, she would reaUy be penruless. Interviewer: Does your fiction sustain you economically? White: If I weren't such a spendthrift and if I didn't have other people to support—my mother's not the only one—I could Uve very weU from my fiction, but Tm a terrible spendthrift. I Uke to travel, and that takes money. Interviewer...


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