Edmund White

You Can’t Tell Them Apart

Equal Affections

By David Leavitt

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.

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