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White Swan, Black Swan (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – November 26, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034543868X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345438683
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The dance world becomes palpably real in this accomplished debut collection by Sharp, a former member of the Harkness Ballet of New York, as she explores both the exultation and the physical and emotional stresses of professional ballet. The dancers in her 12 tales are all grace and confidence in the spotlight, but they balance precariously when thrust back into the real world. In the title story, Robbie Perez is torn between two dancers: his estranged wife, Lexa, and his new teenage partner on and off the stage, Sandra (who reappears in later stories). Like many ballet stars, Robbie feeds his dysfunction with drugs, hoping to recapture the fantasy of performance, where "all the girls were princesses." Dance dropout Katherine is the disillusioned protagonist of "Wili" and "The Brahmins." In the latter, she shows her documentary of young dancers, to a friend, who comments, "I think that is the weirdest collection of little freaks I have ever seen." Katherine doesn't agree; to her, these girls are "like tiny little disciples." "The Immortals: Margot + Rudolf 4 Ever" is a dramatic account of the long relationship between '60s and '70s superstars Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Other real-life stars jet in and out of the stories, allowing the collection to resonate with realism for readers who recognize the first-name references. While a knowledge of ballet is necessary for full appreciation, Sharp adroitly develops parallels between classic ballets such as Swan Lake and the personal dramas that play out behind the scenes. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (June 26)Forecast: Balletomanes will be attracted by this book's evocative cover.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In dance, the most erotic art, the art most tied to time, the body is the medium. The dances themselves may achieve immortality like the myths and fairy tales that inspire choreographers, but dancers bloom only briefly, hothouse flowers forced into extravagant shapes doomed to quickly wither and fade. In this breathtaking suite of short stories, Sharp, herself a dancer and ardent observer of the ballet world, adroitly captures the elegance, magic, sexuality, obsession, ambition, sacrifice, vulnerability, and pain that define dancers' lives, writing with a calligraphic precision and svelteness that captures dance's unique allure. Most ballets are about thwarted longing and love, and so are Sharp's masterfully choreographed dramas, in which characters based on true-life artists such as George Balanchine, Rudolph Nureyev, and Suzanne Farrell share the stage with equally compelling fictional creations. Sharp's insights into the driving passion of these celebrities enhance the impact of her emotionally complex stories, but it is the deeper implications of dance that she so brilliantly illuminates. As her characters embark on impossible quests for perfection, put art before love, and value illusion over reality, Sharp reveals how the sexual heat that makes a select few dancers and dance partnerships great--unforgettable and iconic--can turn destructive offstage, where Sharp's characters flounder miserably, lost without the music, the steps, the costumes, and the lights. Dance can be a religion, the barre and stage sacred places, practice a kind of prayer, but it can also be an addiction, a "race against debilitation." And yet what is life without beauty and Eros? Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Adrienne Sharp entered the world of ballet at age seven and trained at the prestigious Harkness Ballet in New York. She received her M.A. with honors from the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University, her M.P.W. from The University of Southern California, and was awarded a Henry Hoyns Fellowship at the University of Virginia. She has been a fiction fellow at MacDowell, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference. She is the author of White Swan, Black Swan (Random House, 2001), The Sleeping Beauty (Riverhead, 2005), and The True Memoirs of Little K (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).

Customer Reviews

She's an amazing artist.
Laurian Leggett
The book neither starts nor ends.
Shelley Whitehurst
A thoroughly rewarding read.
Dawn Newton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on October 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Adrienne Sharp has written a very good collection of short stories. The subject is consistent throughout all the tales, and the theme she adheres to is not complimentary of its subject. Finding a good book about a subject that is of interest, and possibly a topic that the reader knows something about is not always easy. One measure of the quality of this book is that it is a subject I knew little about, and had slight interest in. If you are a great fan of this performing art, this book probably will not sit well, for it does little to romanticize the art, rather it consistently elaborates on the dark, and almost deviant behavior of the participants.
There is a disclaimer at the beginning that says that much of what the reader will see is the product of the author's imagination. However, at the end of the book there is a list of biographies the author used, so how close this book is to reality is hard to judge. The author also spent years in the ballet, so it is not unreasonable to presume some of what she has written was experienced or witnessed.
There are major talents that will be familiar to the reader, Margot Fonteyn, George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alexander Godunov, and many more. The author never questions their talent, at least when they are at their best, however when it comes to their private lives, and their conduct toward their peers, these people are often very easy to dislike despite the talent they had. Their private lives are often self-destructive which is in keeping with the general theme of the book.
There are moments when the brilliance of those that practice this art is described with all the admiration for their gifts they deserve.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By OMalleycat on October 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
White Swan, Black Swan was a very up and down book for me. I don't usually read short stories, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this book not as frustrating as most short fiction is for me. The entre given by these stories to the world of ballet and dancers is fascinating. The stories with fictional characters were good to great. Sharp's dancers and their mates are sharply etched, pained, joyous, dwellers in a world that combines tulle and pointe shoes, gossamer and aching joints.
However, I was puzzled by Sharp's stories featuring well-known dancers. These were scarcely fictionalized accounts similar to those I've read in biographies or magazine articles. They provided me no additional insight into the inner lives of these famous folks and I wondered why Sharp had bothered, when her fictional characters were so good.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
These days,I usually avoid fiction that claims ballet as a subject matter. I was a professional ballet dancer myself, and most books on the subject that I read in the past (again, I am emphasizing FICTIONAL here)were as cliched as those posters of dancers with the quote "If you can dream it, you can become it..." This book, however, was great. I was impressed with the boldness of Sharp's voice and her handling of the subject matter. The truth is that the ballet world is magical and beautiful, yet also painful, unforgiving, and not without betrayal. White Swan, Black Swan tells the stories with grace and intelligence.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Newton on August 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I love the characters in the twelve stories that make up Adrienne Sharp's White Swan, Black Swan. The characters who have moved into Sharp's work from the real world of dance are beautifully realized, yet those who've sprung wholly from Sharp's imagination are the ones who do an enduring dance on my heart. One of my favorite stories, "Wili," is narrated by Katherine, who shows up later in the collection as the narrator of "The Brahmins." Intensely devoted to yet intensely ambivalent about her dancing career, Katherine attempts to deal with her conflicting emotions while circumnavigating her sister's grief over her dead husband. For me, Katherine's deliberations capture a dancer's necessary self-absorption and focus on the world of dance in which she lives. Yet in her sister's home, confronted by the emptiness her sister and niece are trying to fill, she wakes to the reality of others' emotions: "And I'm rich suddenly, with grief, for what she though her life would be. It's not her fault, it's not what she deserves, but it's what she has to take instead." Katherine's attempt to reach outside of the dancer's dreamy, solipsistic world is a noble moment that reverberates throughout the collection. The dancers in Sharp's stories try desperately to connect with worlds other than the world of dance. And though they often hobble, crawl,and flail when they are forced to communicate and negotiate relationships in the real world, their attempts to find some balance in their lives, their attempts to meld their art with their own personal realities are courageous and breathtaking. Sharp has captured in lovely, dynamic prose every artist's, every dancer's tightrope walk. A thoroughly rewarding read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I did not like this book because the stories were, in fact fiction, but used the real names of dancers. I think this is unfair to the dancers, in that people may remeber the fiction and not the truth. I did not want to read the entire book, as I did not want to confuse these stories with the wonderful autobiographies I have read by many of the dancers.
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