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Arkansas Paperback – 28 May 1998
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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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
"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!?