Losing a friend by writing a memoir.

The stories we tell about ourselves.
March 29 2007 7:39 AM

Collateral Damage

How I lost a friend and ex-lover by writing about him.

Click here to read more from Slate's Memoir Week.

The other week, Slate posed the following question to a group of memoir writers: How do you choose to alert people who appear in your books that you are writing about them—or do you not alert them at all? If you do, do you discuss the book with family members and friends while the work is in progress? How do you deal with complaints from people who may remember events differently than you?

My Lives, Edmund White.

I had trouble with only one person, the considerably younger man whom I describe in My Lives as "My Master." He had long since dropped me (the subject of my chapter) as a sex partner, but we remained friends. I read him out loud the chapter about our strange and intense relationship. He seemed to be quite moved by it. When we'd first met two years earlier he'd asked me to write about him some day (never wish for something—you might get it). He said it was some of my best writing. He had to clear things with his ex-lover, whom he'd been cheating on the whole time we were having sex. Though they were no longer together, he felt he had to tell him. There was an outcry but no permanent damage. My ex-master asked me to give him an initial instead of a name, which I did. He had no other requests.

Then the book came out in England and was about to come out here when he told me that I had betrayed him, and he no longer wanted to see me. Over the last 20 months I've sent him two or three little e-mails to see if he'd like to resume our friendship, but he doesn't.  The funny thing is that I liked him as much as I loved him, and his absence weighs heavily on me.  After 60, it's hard to make friends and he occupied a big place in my affections.

Advertisement

Would I do it over again?  Yes, since it is one of my strongest pieces of writing—and that's the kind of monster every real writer is.

Edmund White is the author ofMy Lives, among other books.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.