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The Lost Language of Cranes

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,693 Ratings  ·  204 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
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lost Language of Cranes strikes me as effortlessly comprehensive in its portrayal of gay characters in different walks of life, but also an examination of other characters and tropes that have been staples of gay literature. In many ways, Cranes is a product of its time. The gay identity has certainly evolved a lot since the 1980s, and the struggle of the closet is much less at the forefront. However, this book remains a moving portrait of acceptance and passion. It tells the story of severa ...more
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reto-2013

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
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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. Frie
"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
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
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Quanta sofferenza in questo romanzo...

I riflettori son puntati su Philip (figlio) e Owen (padre) che dichiarano, con tempistiche diverse, la propria omosessualità in famiglia, dopo aver vissuto i propri istinti sessuali in modo sommerso e, nel caso di Owen, aver cercato di reprimerli.
Siamo negli anni '80.
Indicativo del sentire del periodo la parola con cui il traduttore del romanzo, sicuramente d'epoca, abbia deciso di rendere 'eterosessuale ' col termine 'regolare'.

Il romanzo dipinge un contest

L’estinzione degli etero a NYC

Si racconta che un bambino di due anni vivesse in una casa popolare di New York. La madre non si curava di lui e il piccolo aveva presto imparato ad imitare i movimenti e i rumori delle gru che vedeva dalla finestra a cui stava affacciato da solo per ore: quelle gru erano i suo unici punti di riferimento e dovevano essergli sembrate bellissime ed enormi, in confronto con le piccole e sgradevoli creature che lo circondavano.

“Ciascuno, a suo modo, trova ciò che deve a
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Libro datato (anni 80) ma che per l'argomento che tratta (l'omosessualità, l'outing in particolar modo) sa di già sentito, già detto, già vissuto.
A tratti pare che il concetto di omosessualità sia legato ad una sorta di ereditarietà e quindi di malattia e l'ho trovato molto sgradevole, anche se il romanzo parla essenzialmente di amore, in tutte le sue forme, della paura dell’amore e della paura di soffrire per amore, del disagio, delle difficoltà di esprimersi e di lasciarsi andare.
Una buona e
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list-books
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
Se Goodreads me lo permettesse, metterei quattro stellette e mezza.

Leavitt è disarmante. Scava nelle anime dei suoi personaggi così a fondo che, giuro, fa spavento (in senso buono), ed è soprattutto questo che fa acquistare loro pregnanza. Rose, Owen, Philip e gli altri hanno dei rapporti pieni di omissioni, distanze, incomprensioni, fino a non conoscersi davvero, ma davanti al lettore le loro emozioni e i loro sentimenti sono come un fiume in piena, confessato con un'onestà struggente. Leavitt
Carol Peters
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Set in New York in the 1980s, the central character, Philip, is gay. He comes out to his parents. At that time, neither Philip, nor his mother Rose, realises that Owen, husband and father, is also gay.

Interesting character drawings and sketches of relationships. The importance of the family unit is central to the main story with the acceptance/rejection of the child and lifestyle. Rose is perhaps the best drawn character in the book and the one who evokes the most sympathy. Cold and rather self
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a wonderful book. Great style, hard theme, easy read.
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
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
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, queer
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
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
At twenty-five years, Philip Benjamin has fallen in love for the first time. And in addition to his own insecurities, he must also face the challenge of coming out to his parents. But his parents, Rose and Owen, have their own issues to deal with. After decades of living in a NY rent-controlled apartment, their building is about to become a co-op and they must either move or find the money to buy. Both daunting prospects. Meanwhile, Owen has his own secret issues to deal with - his lifelong hidd ...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
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
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
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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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