A Place I’ve Never Been
The title piece of David Leavitt’s new group of short stories centers on two characters introduced in his earlier collection, FAMILY DANCING—Nathan, a young homosexual, and Celia, his female friend. However, whereas in the earlier story, Celia was overweight and withdrawn while Nathan was romantically “different,” now Celia is losing weight and trying to find her own life, while Nathan is gaining weight and living in constant fear of AIDS. By the end of the collection, in a story entitled “I See London, I See France,” Celia has finally pulled loose from the safety of her relationship with Nathan and is moving toward an acceptance of herself.
Leavitt adopts the persona of male and female equally well. In “My Marriage to Vengeance,” the narrator is a lesbian woman who attends the wedding of her former female lover with fantasies of revenge, but is consoled by her discovery that the lover knows she has chosen to take the easier, but not better, life. In “Ayor,” the narrator is a young gay man who has played it safe while urging a male homosexual friend to live the dangerous gay life for him, whereas in “Houses,” the voice is that of an older married man who, in a gay twist on the American Dream, fantasizes about living with his male lover in a quaint little cottage.
All of these stories deal with universal human themes of self-discovery, divided allegiances, and the search for acceptance. It’s just that in the world of David Leavitt, such universal needs and conflicts primarily derive from the biological fact of homosexuality and the social reality of the gay life-style.
Sources for Further Study
Bookust. LXXXVII, September 15, 1990, p.140.
Chicago Tribune. July 15, 1990, XIV, p.4.
Kirkus Reviews. LVIII, July 15, 1990, p.954.
Library Journal. CXV, August, 1990, p.143.
Los Angeles Times. September 21, 1990, p. E12.
The New York Times Book Review. XCV, August 26, 1990, p. 11.
Newsweek. CXVI, September 3, 1990, p.66.
Publishers Weekly CCXXXVII, July 13, 1990, p.40.
San Francisco Chronicle. September 23, 1990, p. El.
The Washington Post Book World. XX, October 7, 1990, p.7.
A Place I’ve Never Been
David Leavitt’s first collection of stories, Family Dancing (1984), published when he was twenty-three years old, consisted of nine stories that mostly dealt with the tensions that strain the delicate fabric of family relationships—sex, divorce, illness, death. A central tension was that of a young gay male trying to come to terms with his homosexuality or trying to find acceptance within his family. In A Place I’ve Never Been, Leavitt’s second collection, eight of the ten stories focus on conflicts arising out of the gay life-style. In this book, however, Leavitt’s homosexual characters, both male and female, have pushed beyond the problem of psychological self-acceptance or social acceptance by others; they now either confront the further implications of living with their sexual orientation or deal with homosexual versions of the problems that face the heterosexual mainstream.
The clearest indication of Leavitt’s shift from adolescent to more adult ramifications of the gay life can he seen in the title piece of the collection, which features two characters introduced in the story “Dedicated” in Family Dancing: Nathan, a young homosexual, and Celia, his female friend. In the early story, Celia was an ungainly and unattractive twenty-three- year-old in love with a young homosexual man named Andrew and good friends with Nathan, Andrew’s lover. In “Dedicated,” Celia envied the gay men and admired them for their romantic difference; she yearned to put aside her fleshiness and put on their sleekness. In the opening story of A Place I’ve Never Been , Celia has lost weight and is trying to find her female identity. Nathan, on the other hand, is putting on weight and suffering from a phobic anxiety about catching the AIDS virus after his former lover has been tested positive. The reunion of the two friends reveals how far both have developed and...
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