Study Guide

The Page Turner

by David Leavitt

The Page Turner Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

In a variation on the character triangle that Leavitt successfully explored in his groundbreaking short story “Territory,” the novel The Page Turner features a mother and son and the effect that a third party, the son’s lover, has on their familial bond.

As the novel begins, eighteen-year-old Paul Porterfield, a piano student just finishing his last year in high school and preparing to enter Juilliard in the fall, has been engaged to turn the pages of the musical score for Richard Kennington, a forty-something piano virtuoso, during a chamber music concert in San Francisco. An ardent fan of Kennington’s work and ambitious to replicate the older man’s success for himself, Paul relishes a chance to meet his idol. Pamela Porterfield, Paul’s mother, sits in the audience in anticipation of her son’s ancillary role in the musical performance, her dreams of her son’s future as bright as Paul’s own.

What would appear to be a relatively inconsequential event in both their lives becomes the catalyst for a life-altering relationship between Paul and Richard when the two meet again in Italy some months later. Paul and his mother are in Rome as one stop in a graduation trip for him and as a way for her temporarily to escape the pain of her husband’s infidelity and desertion. Upon discovering that Kennington has just finished a concert engagement in that city, Paul tracks Richard down in his hotel room, motivated in part by his...

(The entire section is 542 words.)

The Page Turner Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bleeth, Kenneth, and Julie Rankin. “The Imitation David: Plagiarism, Collaboration, and the Making of a Gay Literary Tradition in David Leavitt’s ’The Term Paper Artist.’” PMLA 116 (October, 2001): 1349-1364.

Jones, Robert. “The Lost Language of Cranes.” Commonweal 113 (October 24, 1986): 558-560.

Lilly, Mark. Gay Men’s Literature in the Twentieth Century. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

McRuer, Robert. The Queer Renaissance: Contemporary American Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

Mars-Jones, Adam. “Gays of Our Lives: The Lost Language of Cranes.” The New Republic 195 (November 17, 1986): 43-46.

Spender, Stephen. “My Life Is Mine; It Is Not David Leavitt’s.” The New York Times Book Review 143 (September 4, 1994): 10-12.

Staggs, Sam. “David Leavitt.” Publishers Weekly 237 (August 24, 1990): 47-48.

Weir, John. “Fleeing the Fame Factory.” The Advocate, October, 19, 1993, 51-55.