Equal Affections by David Leavitt - review by Edmund White

Edmund White

You Can’t Tell Them Apart

Equal Affections


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 268pp £11.95 order from our bookshop

This is a novel by a young gay American writer that should reach a large audience, partly because it reverses cliches and preconceptions and partly because it places the experience of its one lesbian and two gay male characters in a larger family context. If gay fiction occasionally seems narrow to heterosexual (or even many homosexual) readers, the narrowness can be attributed sometimes to a tone of special pleading and at other times to a preoccupation with sex. Again, many of the most famous earlier gay novels – those by Jean Genet or William Burroughs or John Rechy, for in stance – create a fantastic level of irreality and an approach to the reader designed to turn him or her into a voyeur. This sense of voyeurism is intensified by the presumed class differences between the respectable reader and the louche characters.

Thus in Our Lady of the Flowers Genet directly addresses the reader, who's clearly meant to be married, stuffy, male and law-abiding, whereas the characters are pimps, thieves, transvestites. Naked Lunch, Last Exit to Brooklyn and City of Night rely on a similar strategy, by which the shocking behaviour of

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