08/25/2014 03:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Revisiting States of Desire

The award winning author Edmund White slices, dices and generally chronicles "gay culture" in 29 books spanning over four decades.

His insouciant and poignant travelogue, States of Desire, is a description of gay life in all the major cities of the United States in the late 1970's before the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic. White was a not so young man pushing 40 when he commenced his nationwide travels and penned the book. It is now re-issued with a new introduction, epilogue and afterword.

Toward the end of the chapter on the gay scene of New York City, there is a smart juicy recitation of the liturgies and rituals of Fire Island Pines. How little has changed these last 35 years! His description of Tea at the Botel could have been written yesterday (perhaps with a slight fashion update):

On two spacious decks the best looking men in the city are assembled. In swim trunks or jeans or gauzy after-beach trousers or leather vest over bare torso, everyone stands about and drinks and chats. There's a movie star. Over there is the owner of a disco and his clique. Here's my doctor talking to my lawyer. He's the model on the cover of that magazine. His friend is a European prince turned fashion designer. The money represented on the deck, if calculated in terms of dentistry, plastic surgery, gymnasium fees and clothes bills, not to mention the price of renting and maintaining a house, is formidable.

The addition at the close of the book richly and thoughtfully dubs the Internet as the 51st state. White goes into detail describing the mechanics and logistics of such sites as Grindr, Scruff and bearwww. True to form, White remains the ultimate truth-teller:

Now that I'm a horny seventy-four-year-old I cruise on Silverdaddies, where younger guys look for older men, usually to dominate them. Or on Daddyhunt, where most of the youngsters are bottoms.

White tells all how he still practices and enjoys his half-century plus avocation of cruising for sex and romance. And to his credit and aging gay mens' inspiration, White has a good measure of success in his hunt. He describes a romantic fantasy going on with a sweet, loving Greek apricot farmer as well as with a middle-aged Argentine small town caterer. Lisbon is not too far to travel for White to enjoy a highly satisfying one-day tryst. For those who might feel that it is somehow weird or slightly sad for a self described ageing overweight bottom to regularly cruise for sex and romance online, we counter that Edmund White is the paradigm of a man comfortable in his own skin. Edmund is still enjoying himself and others openly, shamelessly and with great élan. Good for him. Real men hide nothing.

In addition to his prolific writing, White teaches at Princeton. He wrote a book review this month for the New York Times covering three books on gay marriage. The review includes a scholarly ad legal analysis of the Proposition 8 and Edie Windsor cases argued successfully before the Supreme Court of the United States.

As for his future plans to continue loving life, he and his long time partner Michael Carroll, a published author, are considering a share in the Pines next season.


Edmund White is a literary and real life role model for us and we hope for succeeding generations of proud gay people who love a beautiful mind.