Another intimate and knowing-albeit also wearing--portrayal of gay life in America from the author of such well-received...



Another intimate and knowing-albeit also wearing--portrayal of gay life in America from the author of such well-received fiction as, most recently, last year's Arkansas. Leavitt's venue this time is the world of classical music performance. We meet his protagonist, Paul Porterfield, as a hopeful 18-year-old pianist who is chosen to turn pages at a concert performed by his idol Richard Kennington. Paul is smitten, and when a trip to Rome with his mother coincides with Kennington's Italian tour, he seeks out the older man. It's apparent that Richard will not abandon his sustaining relationship with his manager (and lover) back home, Joseph Mansourian--and also that Paul's brush with musical genius will doom him to a parallel frustration (as his elderly tutor warns: ""It's best to decide now whether you can bear accenting a secondary role""). Paul, Kennington, and Mansourian are all introspective characters whose ruminations are presented in generous detail (though Paul remains somewhat opaque until relatively late in the novel)--as is Paul's mother Pamela, who's at some times a doting nincompoop straight out of sitcoms, at others a credibly aggrieved woman who's lost her adulterous husband and is determined not to lose her son (to a man who, she briefly believes, loves her). The characters' interactions occur in a world where virtually everybody is linked either by being gay or by having a gay loved one. If this hothouse atmosphere feels oppressive, it must also be said that the book is graced by brisk dialogue and sharp, suggestive images (of flight and fall, and, interestingly, of cats), and that sudden shifts from simple observer to godlike omniscience in narration keep the reader intrigued as well as exasperated. Leavitt marches on, to a tune that's becoming monotonous. This is a writer who needs a new subject, or at least a new perspective on what looks increasingly like the only subject he's interested in.

Pub Date: April 16, 1998


Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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