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The Lost Language of Cranes

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,893 ratings  ·  154 reviews
When Philip falls in love with Eliot, he realizes it's time to come out of the closet to his parents, Owen and Rose. But they are experiencing life changes of their own. Owen spends Sunday afternoons in gay porn theaters, and when he and Rose are forced out of their long-time apartment, they must confront his latent homosexuality and their son's stunning admission.
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 319 pages
Published August 12th 1986 by Knopf (first published 1986)
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”It was horrible, really, what I was feeling, the sense I had that I was running a terrible risk every minute of my life - risking my family, my career - but not being able to help it; somehow just not being able to help it. I was thinking every day how I had to change my life, how I couldn’t go on this way; but I knew the more I thought that, the farther I was getting from where I thought I should have been.”
[Owen Benjamin]

The Lost Language of Cranes is David Leavitt’s first novel and was publi
What I admire about this novel is that Leavitt explores the significance in mundane details of the characters' lives. Grabbing a stranger's cock or fighting with a loved one is easy, but talking to those people takes immense courage. The characters find that opportunities come and go, and many aren't worth pursuing, and others can be created. I find their internal lives believable, and this book hooked me and kept me reading far too late for a few nights. But I wouldn't want to be any of the cha ...more

Sin comerlo ni beberlo, David Leavitt me ha regalado una de las historias más emotivas, cautivadoras y dolorosamente curativas que he tenido el placer de leer en muchos meses. La historia, ambientada en el Nueva York de mediados de los 80, orbita alrededor de una familia de clase media americana a punto de sufrir una drástica cadena de revelaciones: Owen, el marido, sufre constantemente los remordimientos de un vicio inconfesable, mientras que su mujer Rose lleva años ocultando el anhelo de
As far as I'm aware, this is Leavitt's first published novel, and it's an impressive effort. Leavitt's theme is that of many of his stories in Family Dancing - that is, family relationships from a specifically gay standpoint. In a way, you could analyze this novel down into a rather pedantic series of illustrative dissertations on possible varieties of family response: there's Jerene, the black lesbian whose parents have entirely disowned her; there's Eliot, brought up as the adopted son of a se ...more

Today is World AIDS Day. Since AIDS was first really recognized in the early 80s I think the numbers have reached over 25 million deaths. Pretty staggering when you think about it, and when you think about all the lives that have been touched in some way by this pandemic. It's not just about the big names you see on the news. It's about their families too, the ones you don't see on TV. It's about people in your neighborhood who could also be sick. It could be about just anyone. Friends, families
A story of family and friends coming to grips with who they are and redefining their lives in the process.

These have to be some of the most real, vivid characters I've ever encountered in a novel. Really incredible. So why didn't I give the book 5-stars? I just wasn't compelled or all that interested in the story until about 2/3 of the way through the book.

If you love great, interesting, complex and evolving characters, this is the book for you. If you need a bit more plot, maybe not.

I also wond
"Ciascuno, a modo suo, trova ciò che deve amare, e lo ama; la finestra diventa uno specchio; qualunque sia la cosa che amiamo, è quello che noi siamo."

Ho scoperto Leavitt tardi, confesso: e quel Ballo di famiglia, che pure mi ha rivelato l'atroce sensibilità e capacità di un ventenne, quale era l'autore al momento della sua pubblicazione, m'era sembrato una noia mortale. Ripetitivo, monotematico, estremamente riduttivo delle mille complicazioni della vita.
Quale estremo piacere, allora, scoprire
I've kept this on my shelves for a long time, never really feeling in the right mood to read it as I somehow expected the book to be too keen on political correctness, to centred on the homosexual theme everyone knows about when purchasing this book, and I also kind of thought it'd be too eighties. I don't know where these ideas came from, and I'm so glad that I was completely wrong.

The Lost Language of Cranes is one of the most engaging books I've read in a while with characters that are so psy
Maybe only 3.5,because I didn't get as emotionally invested as I thought I should. It's a unique family drama as mother, father and son struggle with their disconnect, stemming largely from sexual preferences. Owen and Phillip are both gay men, but at completely different places in terms of acceptance. Rose needs to figure out how/if to accept either her husband or her son's homosexuality. All of this is set against the onslaught of AIDS in New York City. It's an era I know, and one that affecte ...more
After reading the blurb for this one, I was a bit concerned that I was setting myself up for the Manhattan Hollinghurst. Luckily, this wasn't the case. There's none of the pretentiousness in Leavitt's writing, he's a straight forward, but evocative writer, and the whole book had more humanity in the first 20 pages than the whole of the damned Swimming Pool Library. It is guilty of being overly romantic in the odd place, and the ghoulish spectre of AIDS feels old fashioned, which is enitrely not ...more
an excerpt, when Rose realized his husband is gay:

But how could she have know that then? Homosexuality was a peculiarity to her, a condition to be treated in hospitals - not a way of life to be embraced or saved from. She had marched down the aisle, and now it seemed to her ironic that she should have seen in Owen's face assurance,a sign that she was aking the right decision, when in fact she was making the first and largest of a series of mistakes that would carry her out into her life like an
This book is part of the gay fiction canon but it feels more like an artifact than a story that will be lovingly read and re-read for years.

Public opinion on homosexuality has shifted dramatically since the late 1980s, so that's part of it. Without the whiff of judgment and scandal that must have made this book interesting to people back then, it's a pretty pedestrian read. The characters are thinly sketched, and some scenes feel as predictable as an after-school special. Too much exposition, p
Carol Peters
Hard to rate a book this anguished, that is to say, easy to downrate it because it's so grim, but of course it has a happy ending, in the happy/sad corner of that spectrum. Leavitt is very skilled at bringing chars to life, I think, & at the same time I wonder whether it's only that I'm mouth wide open because he's depicting people whose lives I've never lived. I've not been a closet homosexual, at least not to my knowledge (as we used to say). Now I'm trying to imagine Owen, a 52-yr-old hom ...more
I reread this book to kick off spring break. It is as gorgeous and moving as I remembered. Lost Language of Cranes centers on the lives of Owen, Rose, and their son Philip. While this book is on its face a story about coming out, it is also a book about find love. In my reread, I was again smitten by the character Jerene, a graduate student. Jerene studies lost languages for her dissertation, though that too is a language she loses when she drops out. Leavitt writes about Jerene learning about a ...more
Robledo Cabral
I think it would be appropriate to say that David Leavitt’s hauntingly precise first novel is all about the realization that meaning does not blossom spontaneously out of the intricacies of life: it needs to be forged, day after day, whilst swimming along one’s personal ocean of uncertainty and desire. I found myself thoroughly enthralled by the development of the multilayered storyline; and, upon finishing the last paragraph, I scribbled a heartfelt note on the last page of my paperback copy: “ ...more
L'apparente stabile e felice equilibrio della famiglia Benjamin va in frantumi quando Owen e Rose ascoltano il loro figlio Philip fare coming out: Rose sembra quasi non riuscire, non poter perdonare il figlio per questa "colpa", Owen, invece, si accascia sulla poltrona, preda di sentimenti contrastanti.
Molti potranno riconoscersi in Philip, giovane, ottimista, estremamente ingenuo e in cerca di amore, di piccoli gesti.
Accanto alla famiglia Benjamin, conosceremo Eliot, Jerene, Laura, Brad, p
Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL

To think! A world where the Upper West Side is 'gentrifying!' Before my time, before my time...

David Leavitt's 'The Lost Language of Cranes' gives its reader a seamlessly gorgeous story from start to finish. It contains characters that are impossible not to invest emotion with, despite their flaws. Like all good books, Leavitt takes no simple view on 'human nature', instead painting a vast, multigenerational picture of attitudes towards honesty and sexuality—but most importantly, languages of
From all quarters I've heard that this is one of the most best and most influential modern gay novels, and when I started reading Gay Men's Literature in the 20th Century I noticed one of its last chapters was devoted to it and even Pulp Friction name-dropped it in its introduction. I've slowed down on those two books, especially Lilly's, but I was curious enough to give The Lost Language of Cranes a try.

The book centers on Phillip Benjamin, his parents Rose and Owen and, to a lesser extent, Jer
Stars: 3.75/5

A study in life. A painting in words. A moving, subtly dramatic piece that dissects human nature and human life, splaying it on the table for us to see--and shudder at. I think anyone beyond high school will find a character to relate to, whether you are gay, straight, single, married, working a job you enjoy, working a job you hate, working a job you're good at, in love, in lust, just friends, hoping, dreaming, desperate, depressed, in the closet, out of the closet or just
What an incredible book to launch my 2014 reading! First published in 1986, The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt is an intense, powerful, well-written study of an intellectual middle-age couple and their grown son. Set in Manhattan in the 1980's, each of the three main characters has kept secrets from one another for a long time, and the story traces the need to finally reveal those secrets and the consequences each faces for doing that.

Rose and Owen Benjamin have been married for twenty
Davis Aujourd'hui
I have read five of the author's books. While they are all excellent, this is the best one in my opinion. This is a story about getting honest. While it is never easy to come out, the main character has an easier job than that of his father. Years of self-deception can create a delusional reality. When the father is finally forced to be honest, the house of illusions built up over a lifetime between him and his wife come crashing down.

Mr. Leavitt is a brilliant writer. His book has a lyrical qua
I didn't like The Page Turner, so I was wary of this, one of his better known works. Philip Benjamin, young and in his first major relationship, is steeling himself up to come out to his middle-aged parents, Owen and Ruth. They themselves are being rocked by some destablising news - they will have to leave their New York home of over twenty years, and Ruth realises she doesn't know a think about her husband. Owen, meanwhile, is struggling with his secret even as he inches closer to admitting he ...more
Rob Walter
I always find it hard to review a two-star book, because the inevitable question is 'well why did you read it?' I read this because it was sort of hinted to me that Leavitt is a kind of American Alan Hollinghurst. However, his writing lacks the grace and style of Hollinghurst, and his characters lack the depth and complexity.

Essentially this is a book about miserable people written in lifeless prose. As a contrast, I'm reading Howard Jacobson at the moment, who writes about miserable people with
Matthew Allard
I liked it, but toward the end had to temper my feelings with the reminder that it was written in 1986, Leavitt’s first novel after debuting many great short stories. The characters’ behaviors—their reactions to the story’s events—pushed my buttons. I don’t wish to have been 25 in 1986, like Philip; nor do I wish to have been 52 in 1986, like Rose and Owen. I constantly wanted these people to wake up and smell the modern world. Still, there’s a lot here to relate to (or cringe toward) in reading ...more
Philip is the single child of Owen and Rose, and he is searching for love. When he finds romance with Eliot, he feels the need to come out to his parents. Unbeknownst to Philip or Rose, Owen has struggled with his own homosexuality for years. Thus the stage is set for how honesty and revelation will affect each of them, individually and in their relationships. There was a lot of story to this book and it was well-written. The characters had a lot of life and the conflict presented to them was ea ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Larry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
A great movie an even greater book. It is full of a lot of things that seem improbable upon first reading but upon ponderance you start to realize that you know people who have come from the same circumstances. I think that there is a lot of same sex experimentation that goes on in the real world that is never talked about and I also believe that there are people who know that they are gay but stay in straight relationships for all the wrong reasons and have no idea what they have done to their ...more
Matthew Price
I really want to like this book more, and I keep trying to justify 4 stars, but I just can’t. It sets the stage for a great book that could explore the communications of three characters at varying levels of gay acceptance, but it falls short. Lost Language ends up feeling more like a prologue than astory.

This is not the type of book that’s heavy on plot. When it comes to the plot, if you’ve read the description you can probably guess the ending (I can safely say that because there is no resolut
Andrew Fairweather

To think! A world where the Upper West Side is 'gentrifying!' Before my time, before my time...

David Leavitt's 'The Lost Language of Cranes' gives its reader a seamlessly gorgeous story from start to finish. It contains characters that are impossible not to invest emotion with, despite their flaws. Like all good books, Leavitt takes no simple view on 'human nature', instead painting a vast, multigenerational picture of attitudes towards honesty and sexuality—but most importantly, languages of
Carlos Mock
The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavit

Philip Benjamin is in love with Eliot Abrams. Philip is a 25 y/o editor of romance novels. Eliot is a free lance trust fund baby who doesn't want a relationship. Philip decides it's time to tell his parents, Owen and Rose, about his sexuality, now that he's in love.

Owen is an admission officer at a Harte, Prep school in Manhattan. Rose is a copy editor for a publishing company. They've been married for 27 years. However, Owen has a secret of his own: he
I avoided this for a decade or three - its depiction of Manhattan's physical and psychic geography of the early-mid 80s is so precise, I would have felt like I was reading someone's diary at the time. There was a bit of a feeling (as with Tama Janowitz's Slaves of New York) that there might be as much typing as writing going on.
Now it is rather distant and marvelously preserved in amber. My delay means I only now find the "cranes" of the title are construction machines, not birds, though the met
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Leavitt is a graduate of Yale University and a professor at the University of Florida, where he is the co-director of the creative writing program. He is also the editor of Subtropics magazine, The University of Florida's literary review.

Leavitt, who is openly gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his work. He divides his time between Florida and Tuscany, Italy.
More about David Leavitt...

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“Hope had stolen into his life just as he was growing comfortable with despair.” 3 likes
“Cautiously his foot explored, wiggled as it could, and finally felt warm flesh under the pants leg.” 1 likes
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