David Leavitt

Last updated
David Leavitt
Born (1961-06-23) June 23, 1961 (age 60)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US
Occupation
  • Short story writer
  • novelist
  • essayist
  • professor
NationalityAmerican
Education Yale University
Literary movement Minimalism, Gay literature
Notable worksFamily Dancing, The Lost Language of Cranes , While England Sleeps

David Leavitt ( /ˈlɛvɪt/ ; born June 23, 1961) is an American novelist, short story writer, and biographer.

Contents

Biography

Leavitt was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Harold and Gloria Leavitt. Harold was a professor who taught at Stanford University and Gloria was a political activist. Leavitt graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in English in 1983. After his first book's success, he spent much of the 1990s living in Italy working and restoring an old house in Semproniano in Tuscany with his partner. He has also taught at Princeton University. [1]

While a student at Yale, Leavitt published two stories in The New Yorker, "Territory" and "Out Here", both of which were included in his first collection, Family Dancing (nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award). Other published fiction includes the short-story collections A Place I've Never Been, Arkansas: Three Novellas and The Marble Quilt and the novels The Lost Language of Cranes, Equal Affections, While England Sleeps (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize), The Page Turner, Martin Bauman, The Body of Jonah Boyd and The Indian Clerk (finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Award).

In 2000, Leavitt moved to Gainesville, Florida, and became a member of the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Florida as well as the founder and editor of the literary journal Subtropics .

Leavitt, who is gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his works. [2] As a teenager, he was frequently frightened by gay novels that emphasized the ideal male body. He found this theme, and its suggestion that homoerotic fulfillment was reserved for the exceptionally beautiful young men, intrusive. [3] His writing explores universal themes such as complex family relationships and class and sex exploitation. [4] Illness and death are also recurrent themes in his work, inspired by his experience with his mother's cancer and death when he was growing up. [5]

Despite writing many novels, Leavitt has said he feels more confident as a short story writer. [5] He has been criticized for writing too quickly, which he attributes to early experiences with death convincing him that his life as a writer would be short. [5] His work has been considered both minimalist as well as part of the literary Brat Pack, but he has made "a fierce effort to disassociate" himself from both. He considers his works too long, emotional and descriptive to be minimalist. [5]

Leavitt’s favorite novelist is Penelope Fitzgerald, his favorite works of hers being The Beginning of Spring , The Gate of Angels and The Blue Flower . He has also been influenced by John Cheever, Alice Munro, Cynthia Ozick, Joseph Roth, W. G. Sebald, and Grace Paley, whom he credits for teaching him the importance of humble experiences in great fiction. [6]

In 1993, the English poet Stephen Spender sued Leavitt for copyright infringement over the publication of his novel While England Sleeps, accusing him of using elements of Spender's memoir World Within World in the novel. [7] Viking-Penguin, Leavitt's publisher at the time, withdrew the book. In 1995, Houghton Mifflin published a revised version with a preface by Leavitt addressing the controversy.

In "Courage in the Telling: The Critical Rise and Fall of David Leavitt", Drew Patrick Shannon argues that the critical backlash that accompanied Spender's suit "allowed [critics] to reinforce the boundaries between gay and mainstream literature that Leavitt had previously crossed". [8] Subsequent reviews of Leavitt's work were more favorable. [9] [10] The episode provided Leavitt with the basis for his novella The Term-Paper Artist. [11]

Adaptations

Two of Leavitt's novels have been filmed: The Lost Language of Cranes (1991) was directed by Nigel Finch and The Page Turner (released under the title Food of Love) was directed by Ventura Pons. The rights to a third, The Indian Clerk , have been optioned by Scott Rudin.

Writings

Collections

Novels

Non-fiction

Co-authored and edited collections

Related Research Articles

Short story Work of literature, usually written in narrative prose

A short story is a piece of prose fiction that typically can be read in one sitting and focuses on a self-contained incident or series of linked incidents, with the intent of evoking a single effect or mood. The short story is one of the oldest types of literature and has existed in the form of legends, mythic tales, folk tales, fairy tales, fables and anecdotes in various ancient communities across the world. The modern short story developed in the early 19th century.

Michael Cunningham American novelist and screenwriter

Michael Cunningham is an American novelist and screenwriter. He is best known for his 1998 novel The Hours, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999. Cunningham is a senior lecturer of creative writing at Yale University.

John Crowley (author) American writer

John Crowley is an American author of fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction. He has also written essays. Crowley studied at Indiana University and has a second career as a documentary film writer.

William Boyd (writer) Scottish novelist, short story writer, and screen writer

William Boyd is a Scottish novelist, short story writer and screenwriter.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon Scottish writer 1901–1935

Lewis Grassic Gibbon was the pseudonym of James Leslie Mitchell, a Scottish writer. He was best known for his trilogy A Scots Quair, set in the north-east of Scotland in early years of the 20th century.

Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton is a Canadian fiction writer, poet, and singer-songwriter. He is the author of eighteen books, including three short story collections, four novels and seven poetry collections. His most recent work is Selected Poems 1983-2020 and an album, The Devil's Share, (Wolfe Island Records, CRS Europe).

Aleksandar Hemon

Aleksandar Hemon is a Bosnian-American author, essayist, critic, television writer, and screenwriter. He is best known for the novels Nowhere Man (2002) and The Lazarus Project (2008).

Steve Berman is an American editor, novelist and short story writer. He writes in the field of queer speculative fiction.

Andrew Holleran

Andrew Holleran is the pseudonym of Eric Garber, an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer, born and partly raised in Aruba, in the Dutch Caribbean. He is a prominent novelist of post-Stonewall gay literature. He was a member of The Violet Quill, a gay writer's group that met briefly from 1980-81. The Violet Quill included other prolific gay writers like Edmund White and Felice Picano. Garber, who has historically been very protective of his privacy, uses "Andrew Holleran" as his pseudonym.

<i>The Body of Jonah Boyd</i>

The Body of Jonah Boyd is a novel by David Leavitt, published in 2004, that depicts various consequences of the theft of a manuscript. It tells a story about the life of a common American family dealing with ethical principles, relationships and fairness today. The story is perceived through the eyes of Denny, the secretary and mistress of university professor Ernest Wright, who increasingly exerts influence on the life of the Wright family.

Gordon Lish is an American writer. As a literary editor, he championed many American authors, particularly Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel, Rick Bass, and Richard Ford. He is the father of the novelist Atticus Lish.

Adam Haslett

Adam Haslett is an American fiction writer and journalist. His debut short story collection, You Are Not a Stranger Here, and his second novel, Imagine Me Gone, were both finalists for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy in Berlin. In 2017, he won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Romesh Gunesekera

Romesh Gunesekera FRSL is a Sri Lankan-born British author, who was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for his novel Reef in 1994. He has judged a number of literary prizes and was Chair of the judges of Commonwealth Short Story Prize competition for 2015.

Philip Gambone is an American writer who has published both fiction and non-fiction.

Felice Picano American writer, publisher, and critic (born 1944)

Felice Picano is an American writer, publisher, and critic who has encouraged the development of gay literature in the United States. His work is documented in many sources.

Christopher David Castellani is the author of four novels and Artistic Director of the creative writing non-profit GrubStreet.

Silas Dwane House is an American writer best known for his novels. He is also a music journalist, environmental activist, and columnist. House's fiction is known for its attention to the natural world, working class characters, and the plight of the rural place and rural people.

Stephen Spender English poet and man of letters

Sir Stephen Harold Spender was an English poet, novelist and essayist whose work concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the United States Library of Congress in 1965.

Mitchell S. Jackson American writer based in New York City

Mitchell S. Jackson is an American writer based in New York City. He is the author of the 2013 novel The Residue Years, as well as Oversoul (2012), an ebook collection of essays and short stories. Jackson is a Whiting Award recipient and a former winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. In 2021, he won the Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award for Feature Writing for his profile of Ahmaud Arbery for Runners World.He has also been the recipient of fellowships from TED and the Lannan Foundation. Jackson is also a public speaker and documentarian.

<i>Broken Sleep</i>

Broken Sleep: an American Dream is the second novel by American writer Bruce Bauman, published in 2015. It follows the exploits of the powerful Savant family, including rock star-cum-US presidential candidate Alchemy Savant, his half-brother Moses Teumer, and their brilliant but insane mother Salome Savant.

References

  1. Lawson, Don (January 1, 2001). "David Leavitt". GLBTQ Literature via EBSCO.
  2. Lawson, Don. "Leavitt, David". Archived from the original on 19 October 2006. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  3. Schwartz, Michael (January 1, 1995). "David Leavitt's Inner Child". Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review. 2: 1, 40–44.
  4. Coman, Jennifer. "David Leavitt: Overview". Contemporary Popular Writers. Literature Resource Center.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Staggs, Sam (Aug 24, 1990). "David Leavitt: the writer of short stories and novels talks about the pitfalls of having achieved early success". Publishers Weekly. Academic ASAP: 47.
  6. "By the Book: David Leavitt". The New York Times Book Review. Arts and Entertainment. June 29, 2014 via Literature Resource Center.
  7. Spender, Stephen. "My Life is Mine: Not David Leavitt's". New York Times. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  8. Shannon, Drew Patrick (October 2001). "Courage in the Telling: The Critical Rise and Fall of David Leavitt". International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies. 6 (4): 305–318. doi:10.1023/A:1012221326219. S2CID   140307128.
  9. Taylor, DJ (January 25, 2008). "Adding up to a life". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  10. Freudenberger, Nell (September 16, 2007). "Lust for Numbers". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  11. Bleeth, Kenneth; Julie Rivkin (October 2001). "The 'Imitation David': Plagiarism, Collaboration and the Making of a Gay Literary Tradition in David Leavitt's "The Term-Paper Artist". PMLA. 5. 116.