White, Edmund. “Skinned Alive: Stories”, Vintage, 1996.
Erotic, Heartbreaking Stories
When “Skinned Alive” was published in 1996, it was the first fiction to come from Edmund White in eight years. We were ready for some more White and he did not disappoint. There are eight stories here, three of which are autobiographical. We immediately sense that something has changed in the writer’s prose and that is in the use of more restraint which we will see soon.
I have read that some feel that there is too much White in these stories that they are too self-centered but I find that while White has become something of an expatriate that is not the basis for what we have here. The fact that he is willing to include himself in with the other characters, for me, at least, is validation what others might call stories that are too far out. White’s presence brings them home. Whether he writes about rediscovering passion or just being alive or considering mortality, there is a magic in these stories that shows us how life changes. We become aware of the gulfs between people that exist in human relationships and while we may not be able to deal with them, we must acknowledge that they are there.
So what is the restraint that I mentioned earlier? In getting older, we tend to exercise restraint because physically and emotionally we cannot do what we once did. White does not tell us stories, he shows them to us and he does so in gorgeous prose. To say any more would be to deprive someone of a unique reading experience and so I remain mum.