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The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A central figure in 20th-century American modernism, Lincoln Kirstein (1907–1996) edited a pioneering literary magazine and was the driving force behind George Balanchine's revolutionary New York City Ballet. Bancroft Prize–winner Duberman (Charles Francis Adams) reveals in his absorbing biography a man blessed, agonizingly, with great artistic taste and vision unaccompanied by artistic talent. Born of a wealthy Jewish family but unable to personally finance his many schemes, Kirstein became a frenzied impresario of the avant-garde, perpetually sweating out budget shortfalls and opening night reviews and pestering philanthropists for funds to bring high-brow dance to suspicious but increasingly receptive American audiences. His was a high-wire life—despite artistic triumphs, NYCB teetered on the brink of bankruptcy for decades—sustained by a stupendous manic energy (later darkening into demented fits that necessitated electroshock) and enlivened by a parade of lovers of both sexes, including his own brother. Kirstein met everyone from Martha Graham to General Patton. Through Kirstein's funny, perceptive diary jottings and letters, Duberman paints an engaging portrait of bohemian New York and its high-society patrons. Kirstein's tornado life and crazy-quilt projects can be bewildering, but Duberman conjures an indelible sense of a creative urge that became a tortuous pilgrimage toward an enigmatic muse. 36 pages of photos. (Apr. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

As the author of foundational works in modern gay history, award-winning biographer Duberman is uniquely qualified to chronicle the many-faceted life of influential arts advocate Lincoln Kirstein. Unconventional from the cradle and free to follow his passions thanks to his family's department-store fortune, Kirstein was blessed with "charismatic brilliance," prodigious energy, and an entrepreneurial spirit, if plagued with an "easily overwrought nature." Duberman details Kirstein's herculean efforts to establish choreographer George Balanchine in the U.S and tells phenomenal stories of Kirstein's role in World War II's Arts and Monuments Commission's dramatic discovery of stolen masterpieces and intelligence gathering in pro-Nazi South America. A crucial force in the vitality of the Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center, Kirstein led a complicated personal life. Married to Fidelma (sister of the artist Paul Cadmus), Kirstein enjoyed many affairs with men, and both he and Fidelma eventually suffered bouts of mental illness. Duberman offers a remarkably candid and profoundly insightful portrait of a "consequential if controversial figure in the art world," a man of dazzling gifts and convictions. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400041325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400041329
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,657,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Donohue on August 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein is terrifically detailed and sweeps the reader into the best years of New York, especially. I could not put it down and walked around carrying this massive tome everywhere because I could not be parted from it. He truly crossed paths with EVERYONE, and it was enthralling to realize how one did that then. Duberman is frank and honest about the material that causes unease, particularly about fascism and social ambitions of some of Kirstein's colleagues over the years. His life was so layered, like a mille-fleur pastry, that Duberman has to keep sweeping back across the same period of months again and again to get it all, which takes some getting used to, but, by 1934, seems as natural a way as any to make the portrait complete.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on September 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A superb biography of a complicated person who was not only a key figure in the development of ballet in America, but a cultural leader in a wide sweep of artistic endeavors over most of the last century. While his creative partnership with George Balanchine is central to this book, Lincoln Kirstein also had important early roles in introducing many modern painters to the public and with various fine literary endeavors.

The author, Mr. Duberman, does not flinch from Mr. Kirstein's "own varied sexual-affectionate history." Potential readers should know this is an unusually candid account of a notable person's private life.

While not a high-lighted part of this book, I especially admire Mr. Kirstein's service in World War II as one of the "Monuments Men", who helped save a large part of European art at the end of World War II. Readers interested in this overall effort might wish to read "Rescuing Da Vinci" by Edsel.

(The book's jacket design by Chip Kidd is first rate.)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By H. Williams on December 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
At the September 2009 of the NYC LGBT Center book discussion group, we had a small but very smart and vocal group that read the "The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein" by Martin Duberman.

I think that we all wanted to learn more about Lincoln Kirstein and wanted to like this book, but almost everyone agreed that something "didn't click" in this epic biography. While there were lots of
amazing events and interesting stories and huge personalities, there was not an overarching view of Kirstein's life or accomplishments. The organization seemed a bit muddled. Sometimes there was was just too much damn detail. Lots of valuable information was buried in the text. There was no attempt to dramatize events or make the point of some of the incidents clear. There was a lot of sex (which was good) but it was unclear why some of the stories were in the book.

One reader pointed out that Duberman was not invited to any of the Lincoln Center activities celebrating ABT and Lincoln Kirstein's anniversary after the biography came out, so he ruffled feathers with this definitive biography including the stories of Kirstein's bouts of manic depression and later mental illness.

But for this general interest reading group (even if we are all smart queers in NYC), it all seemed a bit remote and academic for such a major figure in NYC and the American arts.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ballet Fan on June 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Anyone attending performances of New York City Ballet will benefit from reading Martin Duberman's book. The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein details the history and the development of the company and illuminates Lincoln's contribution to City Ballet's standing as one of the best dance companies in the world.
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