Authors — W

Quotations by Edmund White

For most Northerners, Texas is the home of real men. The cowboys, the rednecks, the outspoken self-made right-wing millionaires strike us as either the best or worst examples of American manliness. … The ideal is not an illusion nor is it contemptible, no matter what damage it may have done. Many people who scorn it in conversation want to submit to it in bed. Those who believe machismo reeks of violence alone choose to forget it once stood for honor as well.

I am, I must confess, suspicious of those who denounce others for having “too much” sex. At what point does a “healthy” amount become “too much”? There are, of course, those who suffer because their desire for sex has become compulsive; in their case the drive (loneliness, guilt) is at fault, not the activity as such. When “morality” is discussed I invariably discover, halfway into the conversation, that what is meant are not the great ethical questions but the rather dreary business of sexual habit, which to my mind is an aesthetic rather than an ethical issue.

San Francisco is where gay fantasies come true, and the problem the city presents is whether, after all, we wanted these particular dreams to be fulfilled — or would we have preferred others? Did we know what price these dreams would exact? Did we anticipate the ways in which, vivid and continuous, they would unsuit us for the business of daily life? Or should our notion of daily life itself be transformed?

The AIDS epidemic has rolled back a big rotting log and revealed all the squirming life underneath it, since it involves, all at once, the main themes of our existence: sex, death, power, money, love, hate, disease and panic. No American phenomenon has been so compelling since the Vietnam War.

The almost Oriental politeness of the West Coast is one of its distinctive regional features, in marked contrast to the contentiousness of the East Coast. … So few human contacts in Los Angeles go unmediated by glass (either a TV screen or an automobile windshield), that the direct confrontation renders the participants docile, stunned, sweet.

The human ability to entertain ambiguity is sadly limited and at any given moment most people have at least a hypothesis, if not an iron-clad theory, that explains the things that matter most to them.

The man whose heart is as warm as a hanky soaked in ethyl chloride.

The scorn directed against drags is especially virulent; they have become the outcasts of gay life, the “queers” of homosexuality. In fact, they are classic scapegoats. Our old fears about our sissiness, still with us though masked by the new macho fascism, are now located, isolated, quarantined through our persecution of the transvestite.