There were over 50 of us that gathered at the American Library to hear Edmund White read from his new book “Hotel De Dream”. It was an excellent time. I’ve never gone to one of these free gatherings- the wine was flowing much like wine, which doesn’t mean anything to me but the bottled water was cold and I appreciate that.
The audience was probably one of the friendliest groups of people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Obviously, the word “gay” comes from just how friendly gay guys are. Edmund White attracts a gay audience because his books are high in the gay factor. Unfortunately, I think that some people don’t read him because of this- big mistake. I’m reading Hotel de Dream and, so far, it is fascinating and tough to put down.
Hotel de Dream is about Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, and his wife Cora. Historically, there has always been a rumor that Stephen Crane began writing a story about a boy prostitute named Elliot that he happened to meet in New York City. Crane, supposedly, had never met a homosexual before although it is rumored that he was fond of hookers and the seedy underbelly of New York life, He spent a great deal of time following Elliot around and interviewing him. Crane wrote about 40 pages and showed them to his friend Hamlin Garland. Garland read them and said, “These are the best pages you have written and if you don’t tear them up, every last word, you’ll never have a career.” He convinced Stephen Crane to throw the pages on the fire. It is from here that Edmund White begins his fictional story. Stephen Crane is dieing and decides he needs to write the story of Elliot's life.
I’m surprised that Edmund White doesn’t do more readings- he is a very entertaining man and added a great deal of flair to the event. As he read aloud from his book he would break off to tell a little 19th century gossip- he was especially humorous about Henry James (someone in the audience actually took offense- which wasn’t very gay at all). Other than the loud mouth that felt he needed to “set the record straight about Henry James” it was a wonderful evening. I got my book signed and he asked about my writing. "It's crap" I said. "Well, maybe it isn't as bad as you think." He asked about my corner of the Midwest which is where he was born, we shook hands and said goodbye. All and all it was a very nice evening. Keep you eye out for his new book about French poet Arthur Rimbaud.