March 2, 2004

The Married Man
Edmund White

Real-Life Fiction -- I may never know whether this is a well-written or poorly written tale. My first impression is that the story derails somewhere around the middle, when Austin and Julien settle in together stateside, at about the time when Julien becomes sick with AIDS. Such a nosedive wouldn't be unusual in fiction: death-knell diagnoses (and marriages!) can bring just about any story to a screeching halt if they appear too early in the narrative drive. But I have a nagging suspicion that The Married Man is better than all of this. Why? Perhaps because the characters are often self-absorbed and the plot gets a bit slow, a bit messy, just like real life. Though the book begins to feel told rather than shown and the second half lacks the American-in-Paris charms of the first half, I cannot help but think that White is not after charm; he's a solid writer seeking truth. And truth can get awfully clumsy.


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