Jack Holmes And His Friend by Edmund White

Jack Holmes, handsome and blond, arrives in New York at the beginning of the 1960s, having studied Chinese art at college. He is your typical middle class WASP and manages to land a plum job at a mid-level art magazine which allows him to rapidly set himself up to participate in one of my favourite periods in modern times (mid-20th century New York life). He helps Will Wright get a job at the same publishing firm and they become firm friends.

So begins Edmund White’s latest offering of fiction, filled with his signature observations of the human condition and some of the most exquisite prose I’ve read in quite awhile. Told in two halves, the first being from Jack’s perspective as a story of unrequited love, and the second - nine years later - told from Will’s as a tale of infidelity, this really is a fascinating look into the differences and similarities between straight and gay men and the gulf in attitudes between privileged and average Joes. Both men have varying degrees of success with the relationships they create, and the women in their lives are treated with honesty and respect by White. He (the author) manages to be both scathing and sympathetic never once really taking sides and giving fully-fleshed characters a chance to speak for themselves. Very satisfying!

Kevin Clark is from Readings Carlton.