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Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints by Joan Acocella
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Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints by Joan Acocella
Paperback $18.95
Feb 12, 2008 | ISBN 9780307275769

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“[An] elegant collection. [Acocella’s] 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)

“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. 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. How agile these firmly rooted yet whirling essays are, and how very enlightening.”
Booklist (starred 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

“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

“A hefty collection of profiles and essays centered around the question of what allows genius to flower in the face of often gargantuan difficulties. The galvanizing force in an artist’s success is tenacity, concludes critic Acocella . . . specifically “the ability to survive disappointment.” These 31 pieces–most originally appearing in The New Yorker, others from the New York Review of Books–reveal the author to be terrifically attracted to the underdog. Acocella’s obsessively detailed essays on dancers and choreographers are the book’s most enthralling. The emphasis here is on iconic lives, and these beautifully researched pieces provide riveting insights into the nature of creativity. Tight, intriguing and astute: Acocella is a critic with staying power.”
Kirkus starred 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


National Book Critics Circle Awards FINALIST 2007

Table Of Contents

List of Illustrations

A Fire in the Brain / Lucia Joyce
Blocked / Writer’s 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 Spider’s Web / Louise Bourgeois
Assassination on a Small Scale / Penelope Fitzgerald
The Hunger Artist / Susan Sontag
Counterlives / Philip Roth
Perfectly Frank / Frank O’Hara
Devil’s Work / Hilary Mantel
Burned Again / Joan of Arc


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