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Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays

by

Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From one of our most admired cultural critics ("A marvelous, canny writer" — Terry Castle, London Review of Books), 31 essays on some of the most influential artists of our time — writers, dancers, choreographers, sculptors — and two saints of all time, Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene. Among the people discussed: Italo Svevo, Stefan Zweig, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Yourcenar, Joseph Roth, Vaslav Nijinsky, Lincoln Kirstein, Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham, Bob Fosse, H. L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker, Susan Sontag, and Philip Roth.

What unites the book is Acocella's interest in the making of art and in the courage, perseverance, and, sometimes, dumb luck that it requires.

Here is Acocella on Primo Levi, a chemist who, after the Nazis failed to kill him, wrote Survival in Auschwitz, the noblest of the camp memoirs, and followed it with 12 more books... Hilary Mantel, the aspiring young lawyer stuck on a couch with a chronic and debilitating illness, who asked herself, "What can one do on a couch?" (well, one could write) and went on to become one of England's premier novelists... M. F. K. Fisher, who, numb with grief over her husband's suicide, dictated to her sister the witty and classic How to Cook a Wolf... Marguerite Yourcenar, the victim of a 10-year writer's block, who found in an old trunk a draft of a forgotten novel and finished the book: Memoirs of Hadrian... George Balanchine, who, after losing his family at age nine, survived the Russian Revolution, escaped from the Soviet Union at 20, was for five years house choreographer for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, came to the United States with the promise that he could set up a ballet company, and had to wait another 15 years before being able to establish his extraordinary New York City Ballet... and Acocella on Mary Magdalene and Joan of Arc reminds us that saints in the service of their visions — like artists in the creation of their art — draw power from the very blows of fortune that might be expected to defeat them.

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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"So subtle, cogent, and pellucid are Joan Acocella's essays, so penetrating and direct, that each one is a revelation. And collected together they are testament to courage and persistence by a writer of tensile strength and sharp-eyed moral conviction. A pleasure from start to finish." Brenda Wineapple, author of Hawthorne: A Life

Review:

"Joan Acocella's essays are more than a window into the heart of modern Europe. They are urgent and fresh bulletins written with the exquisite brilliance of a pen that is at once profound, uncompromising, and inspired. Joan Acocella doesn't just know Europe; she sees through it. She knows its ins and outs, spells out its genius, and as always brings luminous insights into a continent that continues to beckon, to mystify, and to elude." André Aciman

Review:

"Joan Acocella writes brilliantly about a lot of brilliant artistic creators and a couple of saints. She admires patience, tenacity, and courage. She appreciates candor, resilience, and imagination in the figures she so lovingly evokes, and these qualities also characterize her own work, which is not only lucid and insightful but also generous and even noble. She is one of our finest cultural critics." Edward Hirsch

Review:

"Acocella's obsessively detailed essays on dancers and choreographers are the book's most enthralling." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Critic Acocella's deep knowledge of and organic feel for dance infuses her fleet-footed and witty prose....How agile these firmly rooted yet whirling essays are, and how very enlightening." Booklist

Synopsis:

From one of the country's most admired cultural critics comes a dazzling new collection of 31 essays that consider the life and work of some of the most influential artists--and two saints--of all time, including Simone de Beauvoir, Primo Levi, Dorothy Parker, and Mary Magdalene.

About the Author

Joan Acocella is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she covers dance and books. She has also written for The New York Review of Books and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of the critical biography Mark Morris; Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder; and Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism. She edited the unexpurgated Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky and, with Lynn Garafola, André Levinson on Dance. Acocella was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction

A Fire in the Brain / Lucia Joyce

Blocked / Writers Block

True Confessions / Italo Svevo

Quicksand / Stefan Zweig

The Frog and the Crocodile / Simone de Beauvoir

Becoming the Emperor / Marguerite Yourcenar

A Hard Case / Primo Levi

European Dreams / Joseph Roth

The Neapolitan Finger / Andrea de Jorio

The Saintly Sinner / Mary Magdalene

After the Ball Was Over / Vaslav Nijinsky

Heroes and Hero Worship / Lincoln Kirstein

“Sweet as a Fig” / Frederick Ashton

American Dancer / Jerome Robbins

Second Act / Suzanne Farrell

The Soloist / Mikhail Baryshnikov

The Flame / Martha Graham

Dancing and the Dark / Bob Fosse

The Bottom Line / Twyla Tharp

On the Contrary / H. L. Mencken

After the Laughs / Dorothy Parker

Feasting on Life / M. F. K. Fisher

Finding Augie March / Saul Bellow

Piecework / Sybille Bedford

The Spiders Web / Louise Bourgeois

Assassination on a Small Scale / Penelope Fitzgerald

The Hunger Artist / Susan Sontag

Counterlives / Philip Roth

Perfectly Frank / Frank OHara

Devils Work / Hilary Mantel

Burned Again / Joan of Arc

Acknowledgments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375424168
Subtitle:
Essays
Author:
Acocella, Joan
Author:
Acocella, Joan
Publisher:
Pantheon
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Psychology
Subject:
Artists
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20070206
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
BandW ILLUSTRATIONS THROUGHOUT
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9.50x5.98x1.37 in. 1.75 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Essays
History and Social Science » Literary History » General
History and Social Science » Literary History » Literary Interviews
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays Used Hardcover
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$10.95 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780375424168 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "So subtle, cogent, and pellucid are Joan Acocella's essays, so penetrating and direct, that each one is a revelation. And collected together they are testament to courage and persistence by a writer of tensile strength and sharp-eyed moral conviction. A pleasure from start to finish."
"Review" by , "Joan Acocella's essays are more than a window into the heart of modern Europe. They are urgent and fresh bulletins written with the exquisite brilliance of a pen that is at once profound, uncompromising, and inspired. Joan Acocella doesn't just know Europe; she sees through it. She knows its ins and outs, spells out its genius, and as always brings luminous insights into a continent that continues to beckon, to mystify, and to elude."
"Review" by , "Joan Acocella writes brilliantly about a lot of brilliant artistic creators and a couple of saints. She admires patience, tenacity, and courage. She appreciates candor, resilience, and imagination in the figures she so lovingly evokes, and these qualities also characterize her own work, which is not only lucid and insightful but also generous and even noble. She is one of our finest cultural critics."
"Review" by , "Acocella's obsessively detailed essays on dancers and choreographers are the book's most enthralling."
"Review" by , "Critic Acocella's deep knowledge of and organic feel for dance infuses her fleet-footed and witty prose....How agile these firmly rooted yet whirling essays are, and how very enlightening."
"Synopsis" by , From one of the country's most admired cultural critics comes a dazzling new collection of 31 essays that consider the life and work of some of the most influential artists--and two saints--of all time, including Simone de Beauvoir, Primo Levi, Dorothy Parker, and Mary Magdalene.
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