Edward White's study of Carl Van Vechten is both a biography and a critical study of his multifaceted career—as novelist, essayist, photographer, and patron of the Harlem Renaissance. White also argues that Van Vechten anticipates the present-day interest in gay studies, for he focuses on a little-known side of Van Vechten's life, his homosexuality and his collection of gay erotica. Although White talks intelligently about Van Vechten's essays on the blues and his friendship with and advocacy of Gertrude Stein, he merely skims the surface when discussing Van Vechten's fiction, especially his most important and controversial novel, Nigger Heaven (1926). Although White is right to call Van Vechten a modernist, he exaggerates when he calls him a “tastemaker.” H. L. Mencken had a far greater influence on his generation, as Walter Lippman noted in 1926.

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