Sunday, May 15, 2011


This novel has been on my bookshelf since it was first published in 1985. It's something of a roman à clef for Susan Sontag and her Mannahatta gang. City Boy writes about them directly and refers to its writing, publishing, and scandalous aftermath. Having enjoyed this portrayal of Sontag et al., I was impelled at last to take up the novel.

White himself earlier describes it in My Lives:

I'd written a difficult novel, Caracole, in which none of the characters happened to be gay. ... I thought it would be amusing to show a race of vain heterosexuals on the permanent make and to set the action in a place that blended eighteenth-century Venice, occupied Paris and contemporary New York.

Three years earlier White's breakthrough gay novel, A Boy's Own Story, was published. Part of the later book's scandalous aftermath was caused by the "race of vain heterosexuals" depicted, who disliked Caracole because White hadn't stayed in the ghetto and stuck to writing about gays. Homosexuals too disliked it because he hadn't stayed in the ghetto and stuck to writing about gays. Neil Bartlett, however, in an early defense argued that Caracole was the ultimate gay novel because it treated everyone as though they were gay!

With hindsight it can now be reread and seen as a landmark, reclaiming a whole prehistory of high camp narratives in which a gay voice rewrites straight lives and in so doing undoes the world.

I'm guessing it's White's best novel (having read many but not all). I'm eager to read it again with the group and hear what everyone else thinks.

1 comment:

Terry said...

You make it sounds so intriguing -- how can we resist? I'd vote to include it in the next bunch of books.