A PLACE I'VE NEVER BEEN by David Leavitt

A PLACE I'VE NEVER BEEN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With his second story collection since his much-acclaimed debut, Family Dancing, Leavitt shows few signs of expanding his thematic or narrative interests. These ten stories, half of them previously published, deal mostly with homosexuality, in a mostly uninteresting way. One exception, ""Spouse Night,"" returns to Leavitt's fictional concern with cancer and grieving survivors--in this case, an older couple who meet in a spousal support group and join romantically in their sorrow soon after widowhood. Leavitt's boyish view of gay romance surfaces in ""When You Grow to Adultery,"" a story of a painful breakup; and in ""Ayor,"" the narrative of a quiet young man who lives vicariously through the risky adventures of his beautiful college roommate, a traveler in the sexual underworld. On a tender note, a son dying from AIDS in ""Gravity"" takes strength from his Jewish mother's heartfelt reassurances. But two stories, ""My Marriage to Vengeance"" and ""Houses,"" punish characters who repress their homosexual natures in order to conform to some perceived social norm; in the first, a Jewish lesbian attends the wedding of ""the love of her life,"" a blonde beauty who prefers life among the ""rich, straight, and preppy"" no matter how unhappy it makes her; in the latter, a married real-estate agent torn between his conventional domestic impulses and his hunky new lover ends up with neither. The title piece also reflects a certain stridency; the story of a heterosexual woman who feels guilty because she doesn't live in constant fear of infection, it suggests that the mere threat of AIDS somehow makes gays heroic. ""I See France"" and ""Roads to Rome,"" both about dull and frumpy Americans in glamorous Italy, explore larger issues of identity. In each case, though, the moral is a simple admonition to be happy with who you are. Leavitt's somewhat shrill sexual politics competes with his overwhelmingly sentimental vision. But there's not even a welcome sense of tension in this flat and uninspired collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking