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The Marble Quilt Hardcover – September 21, 2001

7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leavitt's nine short stories take their cue less from contemporary short-attention-span fiction and more from the stratified ironies of a Malamud or a Cheever. In "The Infection Scene," Leavitt parallels the real life of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas ("Bosie"), with that of a fictitious but equally malign contemporary cock-teaser, Christopher, a San Francisco teen who has a romantically inaccurate fascination with getting AIDS. Although both Bosie and Christopher are walking disasters, they are also undeniably attractive, wayward na‹fs. Another, although lesser, naif, Ezra Hartley, is the con man in "The Black Box." Ezra comes to New York with a video he wants to sell the networks, showing footage of a plane that has just exploded on the way to England and the troop of school kids who were on board. He enlists Bob Bookman, a native New Yorker whose lover was also killed in the crash, to help him, drawing him deeply into a clockwork-perfect dance of delusion and lust. In the title story, the narrator, Vincent Burke, gives details of the life of his ex-lover, Tom, to two Roman carabinieri after Tom is found murdered. Although Tom's murder isn't solved in the story, the enigmas in his life from his friendship with patronizing "liberal" straight couples in San Francisco to his late-blooming obsession with marble in Rome become clearer. This story is infused with an anger that exists, like a lit fuse, just below its dense writerliness. Straining to contain his sense of the outrages of gay history beneath the luster of an accomplished style, Leavitt achieves an electric narrative energy. Author tour. (Sept. 4)Forecast: Though smaller in scope than Leavitt's recent novel, Martin Bauman; or, A Sure Thing, this is a more surefooted and emotionally complex effort and should please gay and straight readers alike.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Leavitt (Martin Bauman) here presents a masterly collection of stories that transport us from Italy at the turn of the 19th century, where we follow a small family on their first trip to Europe, to England and a fictional account of Lord Alfred Douglas's life (he was one of Oscar Wilde's lovers) to the United States and the tragedy of a plane crash off the Atlantic Coast. We watch a professional relationship grow and then collapse via e-mail and return to Italy, present day, to find the murder of an ex-lover. As always, Leavitt creates some of the most finely polished characters in fiction today; even minor characters feel real. While this is his greatest strength, it is also a weakness, as sometimes his characters seem to overwhelm the plot. But that is not the case in this fascinating collection of stories. Highly recommended for all collections.
- T.R. Salvadori, Margaret Heggan Free P.L., Hurffville, NJ
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (September 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395902444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395902448
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser on May 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There is little here of the pinched discomfort of educated middle-class white folk painfully disengaged from their own lives that distinguished Leavitt's first and most insightful short story collection, FAMILY DANCING. But there is still evidence that Leavitt is a keen observer of human behavior and modern life. (Although he sometimes sets his stories in another time period, I find it easiest to surrender to the ones that are firmly set in the present--even if that "present" spans a couple of decades, as in the title story of this collection.) He continues to reference the detritus of modern life (Filofax datebooks, email, automatic pool cleaners), but he does this selectively and, unlike Bret Easton Ellis and others of their generation, he does not overwhelm his readers with brand names and expect us to understand the relative prestige of every product named. His focus is on the workings of the human heart and will, though the social context of his characters is never out of sight. For me, his approach to story telling falls somewhere between that of de Maupassant and Checkhov.
Leavitt experiments in post-modern story telling in "Route 80," a two-part self-reflexive story about a pair of lovers who have broken up; "Speonk," a story with three possible endings about a recently retired soap opera star's efforts to reach the small town of Speonk on eastern Long Island one night and the way his daytime drama personality does (or does not) draw reactions from the people he encounters on the way; and "The List," a modern epistolary story told entirely through the emails exchanged by gay academics, some of whom have never met.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Hanssen on March 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have to admit I've been a fan of David Leavitt's writing for some time, and I've read almost everything he has ever published. I had my doubts about his handling nine short stories, but after repeated reminders by my friends who loved this book that I should read it, I finally sat down and read the book right through in one evening. I wasn't disappointed in the least. Here is a book of short stories that are timeless, that I believe will be long remembered and become classics. David is truly experimenting with different forms of writing and styles here, and he is very successful....
Although all of the nine stories are exceptionally good, the three that stand out for me, and I believe the majority of readers, are definitely, "The Infection Scene", "Black Box, and the title story, "The Marble Quilt". "The Infection Scene" parallels the past and present of two different lives. It deals with the life of Lord Alfred Douglas, during and after his affair with Oscar Wilde, and the life of a fictitious young man named Christopher, who has an obsession with getting AIDS by having unprotected ...[realations] with his lover named Anthony, who is HIV- positive. It shows how restraint & doing the safe thing is just too hard for some people to cope with. It has the power, in this case, to make Christopher do a deadly thing, and not care about the end results. "The Black Box" deals with the death of Bob Bookman's lover... And "The Marble Quilt" tells the story of Vincent, who's ex-lover Tom, is found murdered in his apartment in Rome. Each story deals with death in a different way, and it's the intriguing results that affects the remaining partners' lives that make these stories so realistic and enjoyable.
These stories may sound depressing to read, but they're not.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"The Marble Quilt" is a remarkable and varied collection of short fiction by David Leavitt.
Contrary to most collections I've encountered, I found that each of these pieces were possessed of a certain captivating quality. Though I won't claim to have been mesmerized by each story, the majority are worthy of being singled out, though space permits me to mention only three. "The List" is an epistolary story for the computer age. "The Black Box" is an ironically timed piece which concerns a man coming to terms with the loss of his companion in a plane crash. "Crossing St. Gottard," is the first story in the collection and also first in my heart. An outstanding prose piece worthy of Forster. Erotically charged, yet never coarse. One is left contented if not quite sated.
These stories enhance Mr. Leavitt's already considerable reputation as a gifted chronicler of the American experiance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MOVIE MAVEN on February 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I rush to read David Leavitt's fiction and non-fiction books as each is published, much the way a Stephen King or John Grisham fan might run to get their newest books. The nine stories contained in THE MARBLE QUILT contain some of the best, most exciting writing Leavitt has ever done. They are on a par with his best novels like THE LOST LANGUAGE OF CRANES and the stories in his masterly FAMILY DANCING.
The title story is one of Leavitt's strangest and most satisfying: in several brief episodes, an American is questioned by Italian police in the matter of his ex-lover's murder. The reader never gets a neat solution to who the murderer is nor why or when or how Tom was killed, but parts of his life, including his new hobby of stealing pieces of marble, reveal an anger and hostility toward the narrator/lover who obviously is more in control of his emotions, more rational, more able to live the life of an outsider.
In THE INFECTION SCENE Lord Alfred Douglas, before, during and after his affair with Oscar Wilde is contrasted, in alternating scenes, with a present day, young San Franciscan, who naively, dangerously believes that his love for a man infected with HIV, can only be tested and proven by becoming infected himself. I found Leavitt's footnotes charming and funny and (possibly) justifiably spiteful given the brouhaha surrounding, arguably, his best novel WHILE ENGLAND SLEEPS.
In, perhaps, the saddest of the stories, BLACK BOX, the grieving widower of a famous designer killed in an unexplained plane crash becomes involved emotionally, physically and intellectually with a stranger who, at every turn, presents surprise after horrible surprise, including a videotape of the dead designer waiting for his plane in the airport.
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