My Lives by Edmund White - review by Francis King

Francis King

His Own Favourite Number

My Lives


Bloomsbury 356pp £17.99

When Kingsley Amis was asked why he did not write an autobiography, he would reply that anyone who wished to know about his life and personality had only to read his novels. The same, one feels, might be claimed by Edmund White. Real-life people constantly pop up in his fiction, the most obtrusive being himself. So vaporous is the disguise that in his novel Caracole, for instance, his elegantly destructive depiction of Susan Sontag earned him the murderous hostility not merely of Sontag herself but also of her ever-devoted son. This book, therefore, contains no revelation to send one reeling with surprise. But it is full of the sort of mordant and voluptuous pleasures of which this supremely self-confident author has always been so generous a provider.

Eschewing strict chronology, White rummages through different compartments of his life under such headings as ‘My Blondes’, ‘My Shrinks’, and ‘My Friends’. Inevitably with such a method there are overlappings – so that information is repeated, or one learns of a fact only to have it later modified or elaborated.

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