Like Tiger Woods, I Too Had an Affair

and it was with David Leavitt, and it only recently ended.

But unlike Tiger Woods, I am not sorry.

I spent the last several months reading Leavitt’s Collected Stories from cover to cover. I loved it. I hope it’s no secret that I love a short story. I do. If I cheat on poetry, it’s always with a short story. I love their brevity, like single windows in a hallway, each with a private and discrete view. And now, I love David Leavitt.

I heard him read once, at a conference, and he is foxy. His prose is also foxy. And, sometimes pretty ballsy.

Stories that stand out to me:

“Alien,” in which a mother comes to terms with the fact that her young daughter is convinced she is an alien waiting to be reunited with her people.

“Dedicated,” in which Celia and Nathan first appear (more later), exploring the complicated dynamic of the queer peer/gay guy relationship.

“The Infection Scene,” in which the story of a modern-day bug chaser is compared to a historically fictional account of Oscar Wilde’s traitorious lover Lord Douglas.

“The Marble Quilt,” in which a linguist is interviewed by Italian police about the murder of his ex-lover, a marble thief.

“My Marriage to Vengeance,” in which a woman attends the wedding of her ex-lesbian ex-lover.

“Houses,” in which a married man emerges from the wreckage of his marriage to a woman and his affair with a man.

“Black Box,” in which a man comes to terms with his lover’s death in an airplane crash in a very unusual way.

I could definitely feel the stories come together as stronger and more forceful works in each subsequent collection (there are three collections in this volume). The third collection I read in a weekend and could not stop, the stories were so beautifully written and so compelling.

What I truly loved about this, though, were Nathan, Celia, and Andrew.

Nathan and Celia, really. The three characters are introduced in “Dedicated” and come back again in subsequent stories and collections. Mostly we see the world through Celia’s eyes, checking in with her as she slowly but surely becomes her own person, stepping out from behind Nathan’s obscuring shadow. It is a joy to spend time with her, to see the world as she sees it. She is level-headed, a little insecure, but good-hearted, warm-hearted, and astute.

It was surprising to me as I first encountered the two of them in “The Wooden Anniversary,” a novella from Arkansas, and read first how they ended up in life, then went back and got the back story.

This is a book I’ll want to read again.

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