Forgetting Elena PDF ↠ Paperback
I read Forgetting Elena because a student wished to write a paper on this book, and because I knew completely nothing about White When I mentioned some features typical of queer literature she looked at me, puzzled, and said But this is his debut He wasn t writing about homosexuality at the time Forgetting Elena is a very queer book disguised as a parable It is set in a mysterious, mostly male, island community New England meets the Caribbean , with elaborate, but unclear, dress code one I read Forgetting Elena because a student wished to write a paper on this book, and because I knew completely nothing about White When I mentioned some features typical of queer literature she looked at me, puzzled, and said But this is his debut He wasn t writing about homosexuality at the time Forgetting Elena is a very queer book disguised as a parable It is set in a mysterious, mostly male, island community New England meets the Caribbean , with elaborate, but unclear, dress code one of the characters is criticized for choosing outfits that are misguided and primitive ignoring any sort of look we might want to achieve as a group The main focus of the community, apart from sunbathing by day and dancing in the nearby hotel by night, is the study of forms earnestness is the least desirable trait, sprezzatura the most desired one.This community seems to be partly influenced by the 19th century dandy culture gardenias and all , partly by the courtly tradition spontaneous poems , partly by Chinese Japanese Culture the Old Code, peony bowls at Elena s house , and partly by Ronald Firbank This soup has a very delicate flavor I would tell you its odd ingredients, the woman replies, slipping a hand under Maria s dress and fondling her small breast, but you d think I was being pretentious I suppose it s good we avoid all ostentation Maria licks the woman s forearm with her delicate pink tongue.We enter this world with the unnamed narrator, who suffers from memory loss, but of a peculiar, unrealistic as in symbolic , not poorly conceived kind He does not remember his name, or age, or place within the community, and tries to establish his position in relation to other men in every interaction he is extremely self conscious, and wants to blend in His desire to measure himself against the others Herbert, the leader, in particular, but also other influential men does seem to have homosexual undertones when I m with Herbert again, I ll attune my harmonies to his I ll forget the womanHe forgets cultural constructs of masculine and feminine beauty he does not know whether he is attractive, and Elena s looks are equally a puzzle Do these men think that the woman is beautiful Her eyebrows are curved and thin that must be desirable, for surely she plucked them to look that way Her mouth is small Should it be large Do they adore her for her wit, in spite of her looks I like her looks.More than that, he forgets about sex The description of his genitals and masturbation early in the book is very curious it s not defamiliarization per se, but description of something that seems barely familiar to the narrator The same applies to heterosexual sex, when the narrator draws conclusions from the placement on genitals on his lover s body.The only thing for me to do is experiment I only want to please I put my hands around her waist and lock them Yet this isthan a pointless exercise,than a parallel for searching one s place in a society that wasn t made to accommodate you but then, maybe it was When one realizes rules are arbitrary, one may start to rebel, negotiate, rewrite the code Do you imagine it s always been like this Like what That no one has ever followed the rules Perhaps all those noble people in history had no sense of propriety and did just as they pleased White is very perceptive Let me leave you with two quotations I do catch a charming inflection in her voice, the sort of story book tone adopted when addressing children Yet there is nothing condescending or false in the voice It s simply the way a mature woman speaks to an adolescent when she feels comfortable with him and realizes that for her comfort to continue she must go insisting, in every intonation, that she is much older, he much younger If he s feeling guilty, put on a fast record and start dancing by yourself in the dark Or turn on a dim light, be very matter of fact Do you want some water An aspirin What time should I set the alarm for That will show him you expect nosweet nothings Or if he s feeling too crowded and possessed, too married, then tell him you need your sleep, would he please leave, you ve got a rendezvous with another man tomorrow at lunch Or if the tristesse is simply what every animal feels, then there s always scrabble, or a rubber of bridge Combining glittering wit, an atmosphere dense in social paranoia, and a breathtaking elegance and precision of language, White s first novel suggests a hilarious apotheosis of the comedy of manners For, on the privileged island community where Forgetting Elena takes place, manners are everything Or so it seems to White s excruciatingly self conscious young narrator who desperately wants to be accepted in this world where everything from one s bathroom habits to the composition of spontaneous poetry is subject to rigid conventions Everything you need to know about E White was said better than I ever could by David M elsewhere To paraphrase, his earliest works demonstrate that he could have been a modern Proust had he chose to stick to this path Whether that is our loss or not, be thankful that what exists in his baroque style is out there I am Off to Fire Island pssstI think the book is, like, a metaphorsssshhhhhh There is a strange, almost hypnagogic cadence to Edmund White s prose the reader becomes slowly embedded in his shadowy and sable world, coalesced with the grey, bleak atmosphere which pervades his novel are explosions of light and brightness, as he prose fulminates into a series of incandescent images A wind said incantations and hypnotised a match flame up and out of someone s cupped hands Now the flame went out and only the cigarette pulsed, each draw molding gold lead to cheekbones Ther There is a strange, almost hypnagogic cadence to Edmund White s prose the reader becomes slowly embedded in his shadowy and sable world, coalesced with the grey, bleak atmosphere which pervades his novel are explosions of light and brightness, as he prose fulminates into a series of incandescent images A wind said incantations and hypnotised a match flame up and out of someone s cupped hands Now the flame went out and only the cigarette pulsed, each draw molding gold lead to cheekbones There are qualities of darkness, the darkness of grey silk stretched taut to form the sky, watered by city lights, the darkness of black quartz boiling to make a river If there ispoetry in Nocturnes for the King of Naples , there is greater emotional resonance in Forgetting Elena whereas the narrator of Noctures seems detached and indifferent, a streak of tragedy flows through the pages of Forgetting Elena , as the adolescent narrator explores his feelings for the title character, a brazen, beautiful and troubled woman However, one of White s shortcomings in his early novels at least, is that his characters seem to self absorbed and selfish to be fully realised they adhere to tired caricatures of WASP characters, from their superficial and meaningless dalliance with culture and art, to their egotism and self absorption it is hard for the reader to fully empathise a cast of characters who are not well fleshed out and instead act as the conduit for White to create his bleak, if unique and at times dazzlingly beautiful world view, where the narrator, although heavily involved in the world around him, often seems detached and insensate.The central theme of both novels is love and sex, especially the budding of adolescent desire in Forgetting Elena the narrator is having an affair with Elena, yet the narrator seemscurious than emotionally engaged, although he is able to explore the inner life of Elena, who beneath the mask of confidence hides a sea of insecurities and her relationships with the other men on a mysterious, unnamed island Nocturnes for the King of Naples is the promiscuous reminisces Hidden beneath this is one single paean to a lost lover, who the narrator treated with cruelty and contempt If this all sounds a bit like pulp fiction then that is because it is but pulp fiction raised to art via White s wonderful style and beautiful, incandescent imagery like bizarre and just barely audible music totally original to my ear utterly loved it. One of my favorite novels very haunting. so forgettable in every way This is the third time I ve read Forgetting Elena, the first time possibly three decades ago Its originality still thrills me Not quite a fantasy, and certainly not realistic, it reads like an account of a dream As if you woke up and remembered precise shards of what might just have been a nightmare, and you know exactly what elements from your waking life it dramatized, but all weirdly transformed by the fluid and hilarious illogic of dreams.This is how I ve always understood Forgetting Elen This is the third time I ve read Forgetting Elena, the first time possibly three decades ago Its originality still thrills me Not quite a fantasy, and certainly not realistic, it reads like an account of a dream As if you woke up and remembered precise shards of what might just have been a nightmare, and you know exactly what elements from your waking life it dramatized, but all weirdly transformed by the fluid and hilarious illogic of dreams.This is how I ve always understood Forgetting Elena Suppose you re a naive, sensitive, and fabulously observant young man, and you find yourself all of a sudden on Fire Island And you re desperately and self consciously trying to make sense of the place, and of your position in it Because it s a culture all its own, ridiculously sophisticated, constantly theatrical, and ruthlessly satirical And you want to belong It is Byzantine full of contradictions Ostensibly casual, egalitarian, and permissive simple, unadorned rustic cabins on the dunes , in reality the local culture is marked by rigid and mysterious standards and conventions Taste, wit, irony, manners are everything, and excruciatingly observed and critiqued There is also considerable extravagance and tastelessness, lifestyles at once too decorous and too gross But as a newcomer to the island, you have absolutely no idea what the rules are or how to behave Or what to wear, or how you re perceived Or what the prevailing toilet conventions are You re paranoid you haven t moved your bowels in days and alert to every casual remark, trying to model your emotions and reactions and facial expressions by mimicking all the good people But who are the good people You try to make out the politics of the place, understand the gangs and cliques, deduce who s in favor and who s in disgrace, and where you might possibly belong You re not quite sure who your allies are, or who are your friends, or whom you should be seen with You become analytical and completely inauthentic, hollow, amnesiac You would gladly be whoever they want you to be, if you could only figure out what that is Above all things, you don t want to appear ridiculous.And then suppose, in the throes of this existential and anthropological dilemma, you fell asleep and dreamt about the place That dream would be Forgetting Elena Perplexing, sterile, crystallized There are aspects that feel well seen anxiety, social climbing, descriptions of poetry And then there s everything else I began to think of it as some caricature of an European art house film, but in text, on Fire Island, and queer Largely opaque I considered rereading it, as I ve read and enjoyed so much of White s work that it seems odd to come away from his first novel like this, but I just don t think I can. A big gay thought experiment Reminded me of Jared French s painting, State Park.