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The Farewell Symphony [Paperback]

Edmund White
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1998 Vintage International
Following A Boy's Own Story (now a classic of American fiction) and his richly acclaimed The Beautiful Room Is Empty, here is the eagerly awaited final volume of Edmund White's groundbreaking autobiographical trilogy.

Named for the work by Haydn in which the instrumentalists leave the stage one after another until only a single violin remains playing, this is the story of a man who has outlived most of his friends. Having reached the six-month anniversary of his lover's death, he embarks on a journey of remembrance that will recount his struggle to become a writer and his discovery of what it means to be a gay man. His witty, conversational narrative transports us from the 1960s to the near present, from starkly erotic scenes in the back rooms of New York clubs to episodes of rarefied hilarity in the salons of Paris to moments of family truth in the American Midwest. Along the way, a breathtaking variety of personal connections--and near misses--slowly builds an awareness of the transformative power of genuine friendship, of love and loss, culminating in an indelible experience with a dying man. And as the flow of memory carries us across time, space and society, one man's magnificently realized story grows to encompass an entire generation.

Sublimely funny yet elegiac, full of unsparingly trenchant social observation yet infused with wisdom and a deeply felt compassion, The Farewell Symphony is a triumph of reflection and expressive elegance. It is also a stunning and wholly original panorama of gay life over the past thirty years--the crowning achievement of one of our finest writers.

Frequently Bought Together

The Farewell Symphony + The Beautiful Room Is Empty: A Novel + A Boy's Own Story: A Novel
Price For All Three: CDN$ 46.50

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From Amazon

Edmund White has long been praised as one of America's most accomplished novelists. The Farewell Symphony is the final volume in the autobiographical trilogy that began with A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty. It details the narrator's life in New York in the 1970s and his flight to Paris as the AIDS epidemic begins. White's prose, at once lucid and magical, is the essence of great writing. Its plainspoken cadences and language resonate with the tragedy of youthful passion giving way to hard-earned knowledge. Like Sherwood Anderson or Theodore Dreiser, White has captured the soul of the American experience--in this case a gay male experience--and made it into art. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

White rounds out the trilogy on gay life begun with A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One Violinist Remains... Aug. 24 2002
White chose the title to this novel from Haydn's The Farewell Symphony, in which, as the musical piece nears conclusion, the musicians leave the stage, one by one, until there is a sole violinist remaining, who finishes the work that so many others began.
In White's novel, we are taken on a tour of the protagonist's (White himself) 30's, 40's, and 50's as he climbs from unknown author to celebrated chronicler of gay life. Along the way, White bares his soul through his no-holds-barred sexual confessions, as we see him interract with friends, lovers, and back-alley liaisons.
Beginning post-Stonewall, and culminating in the AIDS crisis we witness White in many scenarios: best friend, object of desire, live-in lover, and even surrogate parent. White envelops each role with his particularly magical brand of prose, sentiment, and bravado, that is sometimes shocking, sometimes sad, but always entertaining.
As the novel carries on, and reaches the now 20 year old beginning of the AIDS epidemic, we see the significance and poignancy of the title, as the disease ravages the ranks of White's friends, and leaves him the one violinist remaining to chronicle their lives, as they intertwined with his own.
From backrooms to bedrooms, from parking lots to Paris, with stops in New York, Venice, and Morrocco along the way, White delivers another triumph in chronicling his life, and what began as A Boy's Own Story becomes the life of a man.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lucky pick... Oct. 2 2001
While shopping with an ex-lover of mine I found the Dutch print of this book. Bought it... read it... enjoyed it... told all my friends about it...
I have never been a person who liked to read books with an autobiographical point of view; but I am glad I have dared to look beyond my prejudices and go for it.
Nice words, beautifully written, Edmund White is a real craftsman. (Based solely on this novel, because he lost some magic when I read A Boys story).
A very helpfull and insightfull book. How did gay men live in the 50's up till the 80's... Really beautiful!
I spread the word about the book among almost all of my friends and even the heterosexual people really liked it. I think it's not only a gay-tale, but it's a tale about loving people, wheter they are male, female... whatever, it doesn't matter, because the one thing you can read between all the lines is that the writer must have really loved the people he wrote about.
Within a few weeks he'll be coming to the Netherlands for a presentation, most definitely I am one of the people being there and hanging on to every word he tells.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed masterpiece July 5 2000
By Rob
White's The Unfinished Symphony masterfully completes the trilogy begun with A Boy's Own Story. White's novels speak for a generation of gay men who witnessed the burgeoning of gay liberation and despaired at the devestation of AIDS on the community. It must be read in sequence with A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room is Empty to fully feel the impact of the narrative.
The Unfinished Symphony sees a change in style from the other two novels. With clearer prose and less imagery than the previous two it at times loses some of the beauty of its predeccesors. Having said that this novel is more raw and grittier, more physical and forceful and as a result invokes a whole different range of sensory images than the first instalments.
In certain sections of the novel, the descriptive narrative tends to border on the mundane and dull but when White taps into the emotions of family and death the novel soars and speaks to you both as a human being and as a gay man. The recounting of the relationship with his sister and the illness of his mother is written from the heart and speaks a universal language. The emotional desolation wrought by the deaths of many friends to AIDS leaves the reader drained but feeling extremely human. The emotive passages as the novel nears completion make up for any over descriptive and dull passages earlier on.
I have referred to this book as a flawed masterpiece. Flawed, in my opinion, as a result of the decreased use of the imagery and senses used in the prior books. A masterpiece due to its rawness, its honesty and its ability to hurt, to make us ache and to make us feel human.
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By A Customer
This is the most moving and most accessible of White's novels. The subject matter - the author's relationships, the intellectual and sexual and emotional aspects of which are dealt with - transcend his own circumstances, so that there is a universality with which a reader of any age, gender or sexuality can identify. The language is smoother and more simplified than in his previous works, so that the reader is swept along and not mentally hampered by imagery which clogs rather than enhances meaning. (A shortcoming of some of the previous works). The fluidity of the construction is masterly. Autobiographical novels should be distinguished from autobiography and it is the author's privelege to play with time-scales, to use flashbacks and juxtaposition of events to enhance the effect. There is a seamlessness which enables the reader to enjoy the flow of the narrative. There is no sense of this being a 'plotted' novel with a rigid plan, an unobtrusiveness which is a tribute to Edmund White's skill. Finally, the anguish caused by the succession of deaths due to AIDS of his friends and lovers is unbearably sad. The book ends appropriately with an aching inconclusiveness, conveying the sense of waste for which there is no answer.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This book enters my top 10 all time favourites
I picked up this book in my local bookshop as it was being sold off half price. I'd never read Edmund White before, never even heard of him, so it's purely by chance that I'm... Read more
Published on April 20 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars The Farewell Symphony
This is the final volume of the trilogy that includes A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty. Read more
Published on Dec 17 1999 by mholesh
This is one of the finest books ever written - and I have read a lot of books. Not for those of a moralising or piously nervous disposition, or for those with a tragically short... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent evolution storyabout the gay mind and society
I hope people fallow White's thoughts about the gay world, I like him because he can explain the reality and the real in gay mind.
Published on Sept. 26 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars Indulgent self-absorbent self-indulgence
This "autobiographical" book by Edmund White ultimately does nothing but reinforce negative gay stereotypes - that youth, beauty, being thin and well-endowed are all that... Read more
Published on Aug. 6 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written book about a man's place in time.
I'm always intrugued by White's work and his singular ability to capture not only his stories but mine and those of many other gay men. Read more
Published on May 18 1999 by Michael Nicola
1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless
Though I've enjoyed some of White's other books, I couldn't finish this one. It was too boring, too academic, and though I'm a francophile, too *french* (he's neutered the english... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 1999 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A challenge to read, but worth the effort.
This book is difficult to read (and review) in that it is over 400 pages long, and is filled with graphic sexual detail, and the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Read more
Published on Nov. 4 1998
4.0 out of 5 stars Rambling, overly long, hard-edged view of gay life
More ambitious and not as compelling as Mr.White's other "gay" novels, "The Farewell Symphony" is nevertheless a worthwhile reading experience. Read more
Published on June 4 1998 by Allen Kopp
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