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The Pinings Of Rome
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Books-titles; Books-authors; Novels
Author: John-Manuel Andriote
Date: Jun 7, 1998
Start Page: X.05
Section: BOOK WORLD

For expat American David Leavitt, Italy represents all that he thinks America is not: passionate, sensual and guiltlessly carnal. Beginning in his first novel, The Lost Language of Cranes, Italy has played a central role in Leavitt's imagination. To the degree that his characters are Italianized -- open to passion, sensuality and physical pleasure -- they are free. Those who, despite a taste of Italian pleasures, opt for lives of quiet functionality are enslaved in one way or another. Not surprisingly, Leavitt himself lives in Italy.

Leavitt's new novel, The Page Turner, explores the line between passion and ambition, a theme he hinted at in his 1997 novella "The Term Paper Artist." The ambition of the novel's 18-year-old subject, piano student Paul Porterfield, is "frightening," writes Leavitt. What's more, it is grossly out of proportion to his actual talent. Shortly after serving as a page turner for his idol, piano virtuoso Richard Kennington, Paul and his newly jilted mother, Pamela, fly off for a Roman holiday. Wouldn't you know but Kennington also happens to be in Rome. Paul tracks him down by calling every five-star hotel in the city, and the proverbial back rub soon leads to a cross-generational affair.

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