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Family Dancing Paperback – November 14, 1997
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The Amazon Book Review
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Top Customer Reviews
David Leavitt is best known for writing gay fiction. In 'Family Dancing' about a third of the stories are gay-themed. But I find the gay characters in these stories, and even in his fine novel 'The Lost Language of Cranes', to be very two-dimensional. However Leavitt's observations of parents coping with dysfunctional lives, marriages, and children to be most affecting. In 'Family Dancing' there are a couple of simply wonderful, extremely moving stories about people living with cancer. These stories alone are worth the price of this book.
Bottom line: a mixed bag containing treasures. Recommended.
The opening story, "Territory", in 24 pages, depicts the unspoken and unfathomable distance between a mother and her Gay son so perfectly you feel you could put the book down right there and would have gotten your monies worth.
This is perfect, brush-stroke writing that breaks into your heart and stays there.
In "The Lost Cottage," one of the stories in David Leavitt's
debut collection, Family Dancing, the son of divorced parents
dreams up names for the family's summer house: "Desperate
Efforts," he thinks, or "Under the Weather." The names which
he lists are just as appropriate as nicknames for the various
men who people Leavitt's stories: the travelling Mr. Campbell
of one story is "Seldom Inn"; the faithless Herb of another
story experiences several "Weak Moments"; and there is the
pathetic Allen who is "Beyond Hope." All the fathes in
Leavitt's stories are weak men, and they have all disappointed
or betrayed the other members of their families.
Because of the shortcomings of the menfolk, there is
not one successful marriage in these stories and there are
many victims of the broken homes. In Leavitt-town, we meet
fat, shy daughters and gaunt homosexual sons; we see marriages
which are dead or dying; we watch parents who feel varying
degrees of guilt, and children who experience differing
amounts of anxiety. These tales show us that in order to
have healthy children, one needs a stable home. There are
so many threats to the home, both medical (many characters
suffer from cancer) and emotional, that the children wind up
as experience-devouring narcissists. Ironicially, in many
stories it is the emotional force which splinters the family
that acts to hold some semblance of a family together. Disappointment,
anger, and jealousy are, after all, combinations of love and hate.
The writing in Family Dancing is brilliant throughout.Read more ›
The first story, "Territory," (about a young man bringing his first boyfriend home to meet his mom) was the first "gay" short story published in The New Yorker magazine (when Leavitt himself was only 21) and I remember reading it over and over again, amazed at the seemingly simple story which covered so much emotional terrain.
It was the last story in the book, "Dedicated," which was the one that probably had the most affect on me though--as it was so much a story I wish I'd written. Telling the tale of 3 friends (Nathan, Celia and Andrew...characters Leavitt would visit twice more in the future, and, hopefully, will again some day) over the course of a weekend in the Hamptons. It's a story about love, friendship, jealousy, sex, desire, parents and children.
Leavitt went on to write other short stories and novels and non-fiction on numerous topics--and, probably, he's technically a better writer now than when he wrote these stories. And though I've enjoyed many of them, I'll likely always love this book (and his next one--the novel "The Lost Language of Cranes") more than anything else he'll ever write.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an oldie but goodie. It will take you right back to the 80's which is when I must have first discovered David Leavitt.Published 2 months ago by KEVIN J HENDERSON
I had never heard of David Leavitt when, years ago, I picked up this book in a hurry at an airport bookstore because I liked the title. Read morePublished on September 28, 2009 by Amazon Customer
This book is a wonderful collection of short stories about gay men. It is much more articulate and well-crafted that Leavitt's novel The Lost Language of Cranes: A Novel. Read morePublished on June 5, 2009 by Fairbanks Reader - Bonnie Brody
These stories are poignant and very subtle. I enjoyed the first half of the book, but later on it gets repetitive, with the same themes of mothers afflicted with cancer, gay sons,... Read morePublished on September 5, 2001 by Sai Li
David was in his early twenties when this was published. His stories capture the essence of what goes on between people, period. Read morePublished on July 1, 2001 by TLD
Reading these poignant stories is like watching 15 or so different versions of American Beauty. Beneath the surface in almost every family lie illness, infidelity, betrayals and... Read morePublished on November 15, 2000 by M. H. Bayliss
This was a wonderful collection of beautifully written stories. It is not wonder this, Leavitt's debut, brought so much critical acclaim along with a warm welcome of Leavitt to... Read morePublished on August 11, 2000 by Anon
Various stories difficult to read not due to a use of an old fashion or classic style, but because many are a bore and sad. Read morePublished on February 24, 1999