New York City in the eighties, and at its decadent heart is Guy. Guy is taking on the fashion world and fast becoming the darling of the Fire Island’s gay community. Fred, Andre and Pierre-Georges are all fixated on Guy, and the Dorian Gray like Guy commands their attention, whilst seemingly never aging. Still modelling at thirty-five, enjoying lavish gifts from these admirers who believe him far younger, Guy lets them believe – but then finds this way of life is destroying the men he loves. Stretching from the disco era to the age of AIDS, Edmund White explores beauty, and the power is has to enslave, fascinate and deceive.
I was first introduced to the works of Edmund White a number of years ago – after devouring the works of Patrick Gale and Armistead Maupin, I was pointed towards Edmund White. If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t a fan initially. Edmund White writes about a very different world to the one I’ve inhabited, and I always felt rather uncomfortable with his stark, brutal plots and his characters who seem to have the capacity to appear unlikeable more often than not.
It was rather a relief then, to pick up Our Young Man and discover that I’d been wrong – I’d read White’s earlier works when I was in my late teens, and I was just too young to appreciate his works as an exploration of gay history and a look at the psyche of some gay men. There’s still a lot I find difficult to connect with, but it’s undeniable that Edmund White is a fantastic writer – the prose in Our Young Man is always stunningly beautiful, even when dealing with the ugliness of life.
That’s not to say this book is for everyone though. Guy is an intriguing lead for the book – handsome and clever, he uses people constantly without really realising the harm he is doing. He’s by no means a bad person altogether, but I found myself enraged with him at various points throughout the book. Whilst I’m no prude, there’s a bluntness to the high amounts of sexual activity in the book – it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read Edmund White before, but, there is some very strong content here, dealt with in a very matter of fact way.
Issues aside though, I raced through this book in a day and was unable to put it down. Guy’s life is like a high speed car race – thrilling, exciting, and dangerous. I was unable to tear my eyes away despite having a feeling that no-one would be walking out of it unscathed…
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy – a solid 4 out of 5 on this one from me.