States of Desire by Edmund White

Many texts are interesting enough to read but fail to connect effectively with readers outside their time. For example, this piece of journalism lacks a properly grounded sociological standpoint. Further, its repeated attacks on developed theory are evidence of ideological complacency. Similarly, its patriotism is seemingly an obstacle to serious thought.

Nonetheless, White engaged in a type of snobbish gossip which may still appeal to some people. The text shows that the author had an insatiable curiosity. For inquisitive individuals, the mundane details of ordinary life more than three decades ago may prove to be a fascinating slice of social history. Sexuality and sexism are painted in bright colours.

However, there is something elitist and scary about this Cold War era document. It is not the case that affluence is celebrated in a simplistic way, but there is too little effort made to understand why people performed as they did. As White confessed:

“I become uncomfortable when the individual is forgotten or subsumed under Large General Forces.”

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