David Leavitt

David Leavitt
Born (1961-06-23) June 23, 1961
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US
Occupation Short story writer, novelist, essayist, professor
Nationality American
Education Yale University
Literary movement Minimalism, Gay literature
Notable works Family Dancing, The Lost Language of Cranes, While England Sleeps
Notable awards Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award

David Leavitt (/ˈlɛvɪt/; born June 23, 1961) is an American novelist, short story writer, and biographer.


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Leavitt is a graduate of Yale University and a professor at the University of Florida. He has also taught at Princeton University.

His published fiction includes the short-story collections Family Dancing (finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award), A Place I've Never Been, Arkansas and The Marble Quilt, as well as the novels The Lost Language of Cranes, Equal Affections, While England Sleeps (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize), The Page Turner, Martin Bauman, The Body of Jonah Boyd and The Indian Clerk (finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Award). Leavitt, who is openly gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his work.[1]

He is a member of the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Florida as well as the founder and editor of the literary journal Subtropics.

In 1993, Leavitt was sued over the publication of his novel While England Sleeps by the English poet Stephen Spender. Spender accused Leavitt of using elements of Spender's memoir World Within World in the novel, and brought suit against Leavitt for copyright infringement.[2] Viking-Penguin, Leavitt's publisher at the time, withdrew the book. In 1995, Houghton Mifflin published a revised version of While England Sleeps with a preface by the author addressing the novel's controversy.

In "Courage in the Telling: The Critical Rise and Fall of David Leavitt," Drew Patrick Shannon argues that the critical backlash that accompanied the Spender incident "allowed [critics] to reinforce the boundaries between gay and mainstream literature that Leavitt had previously crossed".[3] Subsequent reviews of Leavitt's work were more favorable.[4][5]

The Spender episode provided Leavitt with the basis for his novella "The Term-Paper Artist".[6]


Two of Leavitt's novels have been filmed: The Lost Language of Cranes (1991) was directed by Nigel Finch and The Page Turner (released under the title Food of Love) was directed by Ventura Pons. The rights to a third, The Indian Clerk, have been optioned by Scott Rudin.



  • Family Dancing (1984)
  • A Place I've Never Been (1990)
  • Arkansas (1997)
  • The Marble Quilt (2001)



  • Florence, A Delicate Case (2003)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer (2006)

Co-Authored and Edited Collections

  • The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories (1993) (editor, with Mark Mitchell)
  • Italian Pleasures (1996) (with Mark Mitchell)
  • Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914 (1997) (editor, with Mark Mitchell)
  • In Maremma: Life and a House in Southern Tuscany (2001) (with Mark Mitchell)


  1. Lawson, Don. "Leavitt, David". Archived from the original on 19 October 2006. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  2. Spender, Stephen. "My Life is Mine: Not David Leavitt's". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  3. Shannon, Drew Patrick (October 2001). "Courage in the Telling: The Critical Rise and Fall of David Leavitt". International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies. 6 (4): 305. doi:10.1023/A:1012221326219.
  4. Taylor, DJ (January 25, 2008). "Adding up to a life". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  5. Freudenberger, Nell (September 16, 2007). "Lust for Numbers". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  6. Bleeth, Kenneth; Julie Rivkin (October 2001). "The 'Imitation David': Plagiarism, Collaboration and the Making of a Gay Literary Tradition in David Leavitt's "The Term-Paper Artist". PMLA. 5. 116.
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