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Slow Emergencies: A Novel Paperback – January 8, 2002

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The protagonist of Slow Emergencies lives in a sleepy New England college town, choreographing dances in her attic studio. She shares a comfortable house and a cozy life with her philosophy professor husband and two small daughters. But none of this quite satisfies Lin, who is consumed by her work. So when an irresistible offer comes--a dance company in Mexico City wants her to be its director--she leaves husband and children behind and becomes a traveling artist. Alas, just as her old life was haunted by the specter of an unfulfilled career, her new life is haunted by the specter of her children: "In the Mexico City subway, and in the streets--everywhere but in the dance--Lin is vulnerable to attack by babies. The second she hears a baby crying, panic seizes her."

Nancy Huston's writing comes alive when she's describing Lin's home life. The children, especially, are delicately observed. But although the author wants us to feel her heroine's overpowering need to dance, her writing on the subject is vague and pretentious, never letting us into the details of Lin's artistic process. In rehearsal, she and her partner are "welded together by the throbbing air." The dances themselves sound pretty awful: "It is about stone and sculpture, about failure leading to rage, then madness and finally to imprisonment." The kids, on the other hand, sound pretty terrific (one daughter insists that her mother is "as beautiful as Italy"). At such moments, it's difficult not to wonder whether Lin has put her eggs in the wrong basket. Still, in these postfeminist times, it's a daring choice to write with tenderness about a woman who abandons her babies for her art. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian-born Huston relocated permanently to Paris at age 20, married literary and cultural critic Tzvetan Todorov, raised two children and has published many nonfiction books and seven novels (Steerforth issued The Mark of the Angel here with fanfare last year) in her adopted as well as her native tongue. Her latest domestic release, already acclaimed in France as La Virevolte, chronicles the experiences of a woman torn between continents and between the competing passions of motherhood and artistry. In an unnamed New England town, dancer Lin Lhomond marries college professor Derek and bears two children, Angela and Marina. Though Lin adores her babies, she longs for the space and time her art requires. When she is offered the directorship of a dance company in Mexico, she sees an escape, divorcing Derek and leaving the girls in order to pursue her passion. Huston documents both Lin's rise as a renowned choreographer, in Mexico, Paris and London, and Derek, Angela and Marina's stunned attempts to make a life without her. Though he is still in love with his former wife, and the girls cannot forget their mother, Derek finally marries fellow professor Rachel, an old friend of Lin's. In spare, cinematic prose, leaping from character to character and across two decades, Huston follows the girls' progress as they grow up to become troubled adults. Lin, meanwhile, still racked with guilt over abandoning her children, faces a career-threatening injury. Huston's loose, often unpunctuated narrative reads fluidly, but her lyrical language, called upon to carry the tale, cannot quite bear its weight; the novel's associative monologues may have worked better in the original French. As it is, Huston produces a sensitive, sweeping account of the difficulty of reconciling maternal and artistic callings, a topic that begs for a more sustained and focused treatment. A long, enthusiastic blurb from Jeffrey Lent may draw attention to this title. (Jan. 6)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375709207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375709203
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
For many years, Lin has had to sacrifice her dream of having a successful career as a choreographer in favor of being a wife and mother. But when Lin is offered a job as a dance instructor in Mexico City, she abandons her husband and children and pursuits her dream. However, guilt courses through her body when she encounters abandoned children in the mean streets of Mexico. Will she leave it all behind and continue to pursue her career, or will the ties of motherhood bind her back with her children? The author of Mark of the Angel delivers another haunting and beautiful tale of love and sacrifice in Slow Emergencies. Her writing is poised and elegant, yet dark and disarming. The building of tension and emotion threaten to jump out of the pages as the flooring conclusion approaches. Nancy Huston hasn't let me down. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
Inhale the breathtaking simplicity. Savour the exquisite distilling of words and passions. Behold the condensed choreography of an artist's soul. No, Slow Emergencies is not a large book. It is, however, a vast, un-romanticized exploration of a life in art. The magnitude of its spirit spills far beyond the confines of the book's covers. The simplicity of the narrative can mislead some to think the book is about the protagonist's choice between career and family. Not so - this ostensible issue is the surface manifestation of a deeper struggle.
In Slow Emergencies, linguistic and structural sophistication is a canvas for the unfolding of timeless conflicts - between divine gifts and mortals, and between favoured mortals and society. Lin, the heroine of this book, does not choose. She is chosen. The novel presents a protagonist who, after much struggle to remain "normal" and to conform to the diktats of society, surrenders to her beckoning destiny. This is the thematic backbone of Slow Emergencies: we do not choose art - it chooses us. Fighting the honour of the gods is lethal. The only way to survive is to heed the calling. However, neither is there any quixotic notion of a blissful surrender into a joyous dance with the muses. Giving birth to Art (hence, all the conception and birth metaphors) is an agonizing process. The chosen ones are haunted, tormented with burning pain which drives them to the point of insanity, insists on claiming the body, reorganizes its cells and opens them up to the seeds of divine inspiration. Yes, Lin does make a choice, but not between career and family. She chooses life over death.
This book analyzes the effects of such a choice without apologizing for it. The society at large does not understand artists.
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