The New Yorker

Leavitt, David

Author who published his first short story in The New Yorker in 1982 while still an undergraduate at Yale–it was also the magazine’s first openly gay fiction. Leavitt’s literary reputation was cemented by a trio of finely wrought works (Family Dancing [1985], The Lost Language of Cranes [1986, adaptation shown on PBS], Equal Affections [1989]), that elevated him above many media-celebrity contemporaries.

But in 1993, Leavitt’s reputation suffered severe damage when his novel While England Sleeps, based on Stephen Spender’s 1951 memoir World Within Word, was withdrawn from publication after the still-living poet threatened to sue Leavitt for “plagiarizing my life.”

Spender died in July 1995 before a revised American edition was published with a Leavitt preface in which he referred to the poet as “an enemy of the imagination.” In 1996, Leavitt published three novellas in one volume, Arkansas (including a fictionalized account of the Spender drama) and Italian… Continue reading