A must-read for all fans of Edmund White, Tobias Wolff and Douglas Coupland David Leavitt is one of America's brightest authors with a huge international following Eagerly awaited for four years
David Leavitt is the author of several novels including The Lost Language of Cranes, three story collections and, most recently, Florence, A Delicate Case, from Bloomsbury's series The Writer and the City. He lives in Gainesville and teaches at the University of Florida.
In Leavitt's latest novel (after Martin Bauman; Or, A Sure Thing), secretary Judith "Denny" Denham recounts the events of a memorable Thanksgiving spent with her boss/lover's family in Wellspring, CA. It is 1969, and the Wright family psychoanalyst Ernest, wife Nancy (who has befriended Denny), and children Daphne and Ben is preparing for a visit from old friend Anne Armstrong and her new husband, author and professor Jonah Boyd. Proud as he is of his new manuscript, Jonah has an annoying habit of misplacing it wherever he travels, and, after reading from it to the Wrights that Thanksgiving evening, he loses it irretrievably. What this means to Boyd; his unhappy wife, Anne; Denny; and intense young writer Ben forms the crux of the novel, a warm and affectionate portrait of an extended family that is unwittingly changed by this turn of events. One can predict the plot twists regarding the lost manuscript well before they click into place, and Denny and Ben's sudden devotion to each other comes from out of left field. Still, this is generally a breezy and humorous book whose charms outweigh any flaws; many readers will enjoy it. Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
'Cleverly plotted and subtle ... Leavitt's own witty, matter-of-fact voice is pitched low-key throughout, with a superb sense of comic timing and gentle pathos that perfectly suit this modern comedy of bad manners' Scotland on Sunday 'Clever and funny' Independent 'Remarkably gifted' Washington Post 'An absorbing tale' Daily Telegraph
This engaging though slight family romance centers on manipulative psychoanalyst Ernest Wright; his hysterical wife, Nancy; and their teenage children, Daphne and neurotic budding writer Ben. Their household is a magnet for complicated and clandestine entanglements, with narrator Denny, secretary and lover to Ernest and surrogate daughter to Nancy, fetishizing the Wright house as a substitute for the home she never had; and Glenn, Ernest's graduate student and doppelganger, secretly loving up Daphne. Enter, one Thanksgiving in 1969, Nancy's best friend Anne and her novelist husband, the charming wife-beater Jonah Boyd, who become blowsily seductive surrogate mother and warmly paternal literary mentor to Ben. When the notebooks containing Jonah's nearly finished masterpiece go missing, they take on a mythic status that reverberates through Ben's subsequent career. The tale draws a link between literary creation and family procreation: just as a book started by one writer can be finished by another, the process of psychosexual development started by parents is completed by their Oedipal and Electra stand-ins. Leavitt (The Lost Language of Cranes; Equal Affections; etc.) possesses a limpid style, a gift for characterization and a sharp eye for middle-class family life. But his contrived plot, driven by the characters' obsessions with a talismanic manuscript and a talismanic house (the Wrights cannot bequeath their beloved home to their children because the university where Ernest teaches owns the land), fails to convincingly join together his two themes, the one an exercise in classic Freudianism, the other the sort of writerly pondering of the sources of inspiration that primarily interests other writers. 9-city author tour. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.