David Leavitt (LEHV-iht) is thought by some critics to be one of the most promising writers of the so-called Yuppie generation of the 1980’s. The son of Harold J. Leavitt, a professor, and Gloria Rosenthal, a housewife, he grew up in Palo Alto, California. He attended Yale University, where he studied creative writing under such editors and writers as John Hollander, Gordon Lish, John Hersey, and Michael Malone. After graduation in 1983 he worked for a year as a reader and an editorial assistant for Viking-Penguin Press in New York, before devoting himself to his writing full-time. Leavitt published his first short story in The New Yorker when he was twenty-one years old and still a student at Yale University. The story, “Territory,” which is included in his first book, Family Dancing, created a minor controversy among readers of the magazine because of its focus on homosexuality. The story deals with a young man who brings his homosexual lover home for a vacation. Although the boy’s mother, still a peace worker in the spirit of the 1960’s, accepts his homosexuality intellectually, she has not yet accepted it emotionally. The conflicts arise over such matters as the two men’s sleeping together and showing affection in public. While some conservative readers were dismayed by the story’s theme, more liberal readers praised Leavitt as a spokesperson for a previously suppressed group.
The story is characteristic of one of Leavitt’s principal thematic concerns: the varieties of love and sexual attraction, most often revealed through the crucible of the family. In his first novel, The Lost Language of Cranes, the central characters are three family members: a husband who has unhappily concealed his homosexuality throughout the twenty-seven years of his marriage, a gay son who has embarked on his first serious relationship, and a wife and mother who is unprepared and unwilling to face the men’s imminent revelations. While this novel employs one of Leavitt’s basic themes, his short story “Counting Months,” which won an O. Henry prize in 1984, is typical of Leavitt’s technique. Leavitt has admitted in an interview that...
(The entire section is 889 words.)