Tuesday 15 December 2015

Reading Edmund White after Svetlana Alexievich is relaxing, even lush: here is a youth devoted to youth and its necessary anguish, its insufficiency. Sentences are expansive, the candour rich and startling, yet comfortable, as if the conversion into language and the implicit sharing with reader/confidant were already soothing. Welcome, he seems to say, and thank you, 'my eccentric, patient, scrupulous reader, willing to make so much of so little, more patient and more respectful of life, of a life, than the author you're allowing for a moment to exist yet again'.

Such kindness is rare, such politeness and warmth. The reader has a role and the writer is grateful. I interviewed Edmund White some decades ago and can't help finding him in his writing, the particular way he sat in my office as I interviewed him on the subject of teaching literature. Affable and genuine, guileless, almost, teaching and literature weighed in either hand alongside other, more personal concerns, which, on hardly any prompting, he would talk about too.

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