One of the books purchased while on "vacation" in Florida.White, Edmund. Forgetting Elena. 1973. New York: Vintage International, 1994.Summary
: Billy lives on an island, attempting to navigate, with mixed success, its alien conventions, manners, and social paranoia, which appear to be newly in flux. Then he meets a woman, Elena, who rails against the island's absurdity and encourages Billy to do the same. In the end, however, we discover that Billy is the returning prince and that a part of the ceremony is the erasure of his past--namely Elena, who supposedly kills herself in the end.Comments
: This novel is weird, and you start out with absolutely no clue just HOW weird. At first, you think everything is to be taken literally, that this is a real island, somewhere in Europe, perhaps, and that there is a normal reason for Billy to be boarding with Herbert on somewhat uncertain ground (Kept Boy??? There is of course some subtle homoeroticism here...) and not knowing the customs of the place. But, as it turns out, this is fantasy, allegory, a comment on a society that is attempting egalitarianism but it instead just creating a new form of tyranny, a society that is morally bankrupt, empty at the center. Indeed, Billy's story is a failure to rebel and spark revolution, and, after his failure, he becomes the epitome of the reigning (in this case, literally) order. I'm not a fan of 70's gay fiction such as Andrew Holleran's Dancer from the Dance
with its nihilism and failed search for greater meaning, but White's debut novel is, admittedly, the most unusual and creative entry of the type that I've seen thus far. Still, I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as A Boy's Own Story
: trade paperback, 1st printingRating
- This novel sports an aesthetic that not everyone will appreciate, but you may want to check it out anyway for the careful construction of its narrative.