"Julien wore dark glasses but still found the brilliance of the
leaves in full sunlight painful to look at. He appeared healthy
otherwise and was thrilled to have his brother with him. They went
walking down country roads; Austin felt they were inside a badly
bombed Gothic cathedral, half of the stained glass shattered and on
the ground, the rest still clinging to the leadings."
With a luridly lyrical style that will leave you breathless, Edmund
White's THE MARRIED MAN is a journey of love's labors and losses.
Austin Smith is a middle-aged Everyman who is driven by the desire
to simply be loved. The American working in Paris is HIV-positive,
but is still healthy and symptom-free.
We are with Austin from the heartwarming beginning to the
heartbreaking end of his relationship with Julien, a married
Frenchman he meets at a gym. Their travels and travails as a couple
cover two continents and contrast crisply the American and European
mindsets relating to homosexuality and AIDS. The supporting
characters we meet along the way are more than just props to the
romance plot; their presence fleshes out and breathes life into the
tragic tale that unfolds between Austin and Julien.
White's ability to evoke vivid images and overwhelming emotions
with his language is striking. The reader will undoubtedly feel
enthralled and exhausted by the emotions evoked so eloquently by
White's turn of phrase at every turn of the page. Here he takes us
through the sights and sounds of shopping in Italy:
"...calling out their marvels in their husky dialect, all hollow,
resonant vowels deboned of every last shaping consonant and the
market would smell of shameless white truffles in rut and the
poultry butcher would hold up soft brown feather puddles of tiny
game birds, as though offering fistfuls of molding autumn leaves as
And here is his deconstruction of Disney World:
"But something about being here, in this unreal place dedicated to
such cheerless, standardized pleasure, a place that was just a hot,
sunny void in central Florida, a joy that was paid for, dollar by
dollar, as a meter ticked rapidly and chains tugged the boat
violently around the corner and yet another wall of dolls lurched
forward in a brightening, then dimming light, their mechanical
mouths timed to the high wailing song about a small, small world
--- something about this place made time break into shards, bits of
the regretted past lying next to bits of the feared future."
Reviewed by Chuck Tyler on January 22, 2011
The Married Man