Forgetting Elena (1973)
Combining glittering wit, an atmosphere
dense in social paranoia, and a breathtaking elegance and
precision of language, Edmund White's first novel suggests
a hilarious apotheosis of the comedy of manners.
For, on the privileged island community
Elena is set, manners are everything. Or so it seems
to White's excruciatingly self-conscious young narrator,
who desperately wants to be accepted in this world, where
everything from one's bathroom habits to the composition
of "spontaneous" poetry is subject to rigidif unstatedconventions.
But no sooner has he begun to intuit the island's Byzantine
codes than the mysterious and charismatic Elena is urging
him to transgress them, with results that are at once shocking
and wickedly funny.