THE LOST LANGUAGE OF CRANES by David Leavitt

THE LOST LANGUAGE OF CRANES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The hot young short-story writer Leavitt (Family Dancing, 1984) contrives a first novel that's pretty tepid stuff--a gay coming-out tale with a not-so-clever narrative twist. When Phillip Benjamin, a yound editor of pulp romances, finally tells his parents he's homosexual--his friends already know--his disclosure encourages the unexpected and painful admission from his father, Owen, that he too prefers to have sex with men. Or, as he puts it, with the kind of self-loathing common to his generation of closet cases: ""Fag, fag, fag, your father is a goddamned fag."" For the past 27 years of a lackluster marriage, Owen, the director of admissions at a toney Manhattan prep school, has spent most Sundays in a gay porno theater, furtively exchanging gropes, strokes, and more. His son, whose romantic life resembles the bodice-rippers he edits for a living, began his public life as a homosexual in college, where he would stop people on the street and salt, ""Hi--I just wanted to let you know, I'm gay."" Essentially the story of Phillip's later love for one Eliot, with whom he engages in a constant ""orgasm-postponement battle,"" the novel also provides a self-pitying post-mortem to this rather ordinary affair. Though the outline suggests one of Leavitt's spare stories, he pads the book with the sexual histories of father and son, including set pieces on first sex, first love, first time at gay bar, etc. There's also a disposable, and chronologically confused, sub-plot concerning a ""serious lesbian leftist,"" a young black woman disowned by her uptight parents. While Leavitt's stories in Family Dancing were subtle and suggestive, his first novel is a muddle of callow insights written in an arrested prose style.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf