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Arkansas Paperback – 28 May 1998

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3.3 out of 5 stars 22 reviews from |

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"Classic Leavitt - writing with subtlety, maturity and compassion about the complexity and fragility of human relationships." The Los Angeles Times
"Sly, self-knowing, and hilarous." The New York Times
"Spectacularly effective fiction." Time Magazine

About the Author

David Leavitt's first collection of stories, Family Dancing, was published when he was just twenty-three and was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Prize. The Lost Language of Cranes was made into a BBC film, and While England Sleeps was short-listed for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize. With Mark Mitchell, he coedited The Penguin Book of Short Stories, Pages Passed from Hand to Hand, and cowrote Italian Pleasures. Leavitt is a recipient of fellowships from both the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He divides his time between Italy and Florida.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars 22 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile read 23 July 2013
By E.M.M - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this collection, and it reinforced my faith in David Leavitt as a writer. The first novella, The Term Paper Artist, is one of those stories that's held up by its premise. It has an interesting take on gay for pay. These guys are gay for research papers. Once the premise has been explored, the story is allowed to slowly wind down. I wouldn't call this a fault. I think that's just the story taking its natural shape.
The high points of The Wooden Anniversary are the inexplicable happenings as well as the nearly inexplicable human behavior in the story. Though what is a surprising development to the characters is easily guessed by the reader, the story's last revelation cannot be guessed by any sane person, and that's what makes is awesome.
For me, Saturn Street held the most promise so I went into it with high expectations. I worried me a little as the story seemed to become mired. The protagonist's feelings were shrinking and blurring under constant self examination. A nice, surreal porn moment near the end came to the rescue and set things right. I fully expected this story might wind down like the first one, but instead right at the end the story grabs hold emotionally and solidifies into something with real impact. Though they are good separately, the three novellas taken together make for a highly rewarding reading experience.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to Transcend Gay Genre Fiction 4 Sept. 2010
By Slanted and Recanted - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is so special. All three novellas here are just wonderful. I think my favorite is probably "The Wooden Anniversary" because of the ending. I usually don't bother writing reviews for Amazon because they seem to just go down a black hole. However this ([...]) article about white (straight) male writers being disproportionately reviewed in the NY Times Book Review made me want to save a gay book from the gutter. Don't get me wrong, if you haven't read Armistead Maupin's Tales of the city, do that first, but this book is a wonderful gem that captures people with so much depth. IMHO, a good story implies that there's so much more to the story than is said, and that definitely happens here. However, as I recall, the sex-stuff might ick out the more squeamish, but I think whether you find the sex stuff icky or sticky, you won't find it dull. Hope this helps.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Very Good and Two Good Novellas 13 Aug. 2006
By F. Chloupek - Published on
Format: Paperback
I haven't read Leavitt in awhile and had Arkansas sitting on my shelf. Arkansas is a collection of 3 stories -- each about 60-70 pages in length. Like much of Leavitt's work, while it is fiction, it gives at least to sense of being autobiographical. The main protagonist is often a stand-in for Leavitt himself.

The strongest story of the 3 is the first one, "The Term Paper Artist" which deals with a 'David Leavitt' who, in a slow spot in his own writing, winds up writing term papers in exchange for sex for several undergraduates. In contrast to the one review below this is far from erotica or pornography -- sex is part of the story as it is in many works, but this tale is far from erotica.

In "The Wooden Anniversary" Nathan and Celia -- two characters from Leavitt's earlier works -- reunite in Tuscany after a 5 year absence. This story was in my opinion the weakest of the 3. It was enoyable and a good read, but as times seemed a bit lurching, especially near the ending.

Finally in "Saturn Street" a writer in LA winds up delivering meals on wheels for an AIDS service (this is set in the mid-to-late 90's so one must take into account the shorter life span of HIV+ people even 10 years ago) Through the delivery service, the writer Jerry becomes close to one of the patients Phil, and that relationship (though it doesn't really proceed to that level) enables Jerry to see what's been missing in his life.

I would give the Term Paper Artist an A, Saturn Street an A-/B+, and The Wooden Anniversary a B-. An overall 4 star rating. If you are a fan of Leavitt, or gay short fiction in general, you won't be disappointed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A place he's never been, some things he's never done 24 April 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
David Leavitt's new collection of three "novellas," *Arkansas,* has attracted a lot of attention because of the first story, "The Term Paper Artist." But you should buy it for the second one, "The Wooden Anniversary," which--in its sly portrayal of reality suddenly showing itself to be illusion, if not delusion, and relationships as but a creation of the character's or the reader's imagination--comes close to the best efforts of a James or a Racine. (The third novella, "Saturn Street," on the other hand, is just Forster's famous charge to our century, "Only Connect," once again writ large.)
"The Term Paper Artist" is probably the more likely candidate to find its way into anthologies. Leavitt has shrewdly recognized that he could take an MLA fantasy--Famous writer cures a creative block by writing term papers in return for sex--overlay it with the personal--the writer is one "David Leavitt," who shares much of his recent history and backlist with his creator--and create 15 minutes of sensationalism. (The real) Leavitt has patiently assured each interviewer eager for (The Real) Story that, no, he's never written papers for UCLA hunks in return for a closeup of their tan lines, and that the personal elements provide the jumping off point for fiction, not the gray matter of memoir. (He does, after all, post a neatly worded disclaimer toward the end of the story.) Christopher Isherwood, looking down from his table at the heavenly Kit Kat Klub, is probably laughing, Been there! Done that! (and 60 years ago, too).
Esquire pulled this story from publication, afraid that the gay content would offend advertisers. So how spicy is it? About a poblano on the chile scale. Leavitt tends to break for a discreet line space when payment comes due. And with all the confusion about what's fiction and what's David Leavitt, do you think he wanted to be grilled on the details of the sex scenes!?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching...and very funny 28 Nov. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
David Leavitt's novels are filed under the "alternative literature" section in our local bookshops. His works come recommended as that of an important modern writer. Apart from his award winning debut "Family Dancing" which focussed on a myriad of dysfunctionality in modern families, his subsequent novels and short stories have (I am told) been exclusively about gay life. "Arkansas - Three Novellas" is no different. It is purportedly also his most daring. Though graphic and explicit in some of its sex scenes, it is never pornographic. Leavitt has such a natural and easy writing style his prose never comes across forced. Neither does his plots seem contrived. Of the three novellas, "The Term Paper Artist" work best. It is both touching and funny. I found myself laughing through most of it. "The Wooden Anniversary" is also great. The twist at the end is simply ingenius. This makes me want to read its prequel in one of Leavitt's earlier short story collections. However, "Saturn Street" isn't quite as good. I found the story shallow and unconvincing. If "Arkansas - Three Novellas" is anything to go by, Leavitt is a writer that will appeal to readers of all persuasion. His stories and are both entertaining and enjoyable.
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