Arkansas: Three Novellasby David Leavitt
Here are three novellas of escape and exile, touching and funny and at times calculatedly outrageous. In "Saturn Street," a disaffected L.A. screenwriter delivers lunches to homebound AIDS patients, only to find himself falling in love with one of them. In "The Wooden Anniversary," Nathan and Celia - familiar characters from Leavitt's story collections - reunite after… See more details below
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Here are three novellas of escape and exile, touching and funny and at times calculatedly outrageous. In "Saturn Street," a disaffected L.A. screenwriter delivers lunches to homebound AIDS patients, only to find himself falling in love with one of them. In "The Wooden Anniversary," Nathan and Celia - familiar characters from Leavitt's story collections - reunite after a five-year separation. And in "The Term-Paper Artist," a writer named David Leavitt, hiding out at his father's house in the aftermath of a publishing scandal, experiences literary rejuvenation when he agrees to write term papers for UCLA undergraduates in exchange for sex.
In "The Wooden Anniversary" Nathan and Celia are reunited after a five-year separation, and almost immediately misunderstand one another again. Celia, desperately in love with Nathan (who is gay) for many years, having finally pried herself away from him, has lost weight, gotten a husband, and become the proprietress of a successful cooking school in Tuscany. Nathan, "world weary and travel worn," becomes infatuated with Mauro, Celia's handsome young Italian chef, and out of simple lust, or boredom (and, perhaps, with the masochistic Celia's unconscious assistance) sets a devastating farce in motion. "Saturn Street" concerns Jerry, a young, deeply disaffected writer in Los Angeles who finds himself increasingly attracted to Phil, handsome, blithe, and dying of AIDS. Leavitt chillingly captures the sense of a devastated gay community in which everyone now "operates from fear." "The Term Paper Artist," the most troubling of the three novellas, plays some unsettling games with fact and fiction. The narrator, "David Leavitt," having been sued by an English poet for passages in his novel While England Sleeps, goes home to California, where he receives a bizarre offer from the handsome, amoral, heterosexual college-age son of family friends: He'll allow David to perform a sex act with him, if he writes a term paper of vital importance. David does so, word circulates, and he finds himself besieged by a variety of straight college boys willing to strike a similar bargain. There's an alarming sense of self-laceration in all this, not much redeemed by the suggestion that the sex (and the research on the papers) somehow stimulates David's hitherto exhausted creative energy.
Sad tales of anomie and of confused, contradictory quests for love.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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