Hollinghurst on White: figurative exuberance

Alan Hollinghurst writing in The Guardian on Edmund White's novel, A Boy’s Own Story

Anyone who reads A Boy’s Own Story will be struck by the contrast between a plain, brisk, clear-eyed language in which any boy’s story might be told, and the luxuriance of its similes, which open up beyond the mundane world a shimmer of secret reference and private value. Even when White writes of suppressing his urges, the metaphor he uses, of a candle snuffed out, multiplies with an unsuppressible life of its own – “a candle, two candles, a row of 20, until the lens pulled back to reveal an entire votive stand exhaling a hundred thin lines of smoke as a terraced offering before the shrine”. These unfurling images seem to translate libido into style, the unstoppable expressions of a hidden life. Adolescent experience is both intense and incommunicable; being so much discovery it also seems, to the accustomed adult eye, disproportionate: “it’s the particular curse of adolescence that its events are never adequate to the feelings they inspire, that no unadorned retelling of those events can suggest the feelings”. A kind of figurative exuberance (which will never be lost from White’s writing, and remains one of its pleasures) is therefore especially marked in this book, where it not only gives body to adolescent reverie and conjecture, but subtly recreates the frame of reference of a receptive child whose sense of the world comes through reading and music as much as through direct experience.
Such a vital and key phrase : translate libido into style.

And so for day 2115