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Starred Review. Acocella is the New Yorker's dance critic, but dancers and choreographers comprise a minority of the artists featured in this elegant collection of writings mostly from the New Yorker. The dance pieces are literally the center of the book, sandwiched between Acocella's lucid assessments of writers (and one sculptor, Louise Bourgeois). She has a taste for early 20th-century European, often Jewish novelists who, she says, helped create the modern consciousness in literature: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, Italo Svevo, among others. In featuring these long-forgotten writers, she fulfills what, in a fascinating profile of Susan Sontag, she calls "an essential function of criticism: that of introducing readers to... strange work, things they wouldn't ordinarily encounter." A particularly affecting look at Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1998 portrays a man long in search of an artistic home who had to find that home, finally, within himself. The essays that follow the dance pieces focus largely on American and British writers (Bellow, Philip Roth, Sybille Bedford). Acocella can flatten a book she dislikes with cool derision ("The less she knows, the more she tells us," Acocella says of Carol Shloss's biography of Lucia Joyce), but her passionate and penetrating endorsements of other works make you want to discover their pleasures firsthand—the best service a critic can render. (Feb. 6)
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*Starred Review* Critic Acocella's deep knowledge of and organic feel for dance infuses her fleet-footed and witty prose. Like a dancer, she makes her art look easy, which it certainly is not, and what poise and range she evinces. Acocella has written expertly and vividly about dance for the New Yorker and other venues and is a keen literary critic as well. She has now collected 30 of her stellar artist profiles, electrifying portraits that seamlessly pair biography and criticism and draw authoritatively on psychology and history. Add to that Acocella's versatility and knack for choosing just the right individuals. Accompanied by superb photographs of the artists, Acocella's portraits bring into focus such complex figures as Lucia Joyce, James' mad dancing daughter; Mikhail Baryshnikov; Martha Graham; Bob Fosse; Marguerite Yourcenar; Dorothy Parker; Philip Roth; M. F. K. Fisher; and Susan Sontag; as well as the iconic Mary Magdalene and Joan of Arc. How agile these firmly rooted yet whirling essays are, and how very enlightening. Acocella's portraits are so much fun to read, they feel like indulgences rather than writings that do no less than enrich and sustain culture. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Some were fascinating, some informative, and some were real clinkers. The ones I very much enjoyed were those on great dancers and choreographers. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Camille
I've learned so much from this book about modern culture( 20th cent on ) and the writing is terrific. Read morePublished on September 24, 2013 by Voves
Insightful, informative, at times hilarious or heartbreaking, these essays will entertain and delight you. Read morePublished on December 16, 2012 by mom in NC
These essays are so well written. Joan Acocella fully fleshes out her subjects by putting their work in the context of their lives without confusing the work and the person. Read morePublished on February 27, 2008 by S. Lipson