Dancer: A Novel

Dancer: A Novel

4.3 10
by Colum McCann
     
 

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From the acclaimed author of This Side of Brightness, the epic life and times of Rudolf Nureyev, reimagined in a dazzlingly inventive masterpiece-published to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Nureyev's deathA Russian peasant who became an international legend, a Cold War exile who inspired millions, an artist whose name stood for genius, sex, andSee more details below

Overview

From the acclaimed author of This Side of Brightness, the epic life and times of Rudolf Nureyev, reimagined in a dazzlingly inventive masterpiece-published to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Nureyev's deathA Russian peasant who became an international legend, a Cold War exile who inspired millions, an artist whose name stood for genius, sex, and excess-the magnificence of Rudolf Nureyev's life and work are known, but now Colum McCann, in his most daring novel yet, reinvents this erotically charged figure through the light he cast on those who knew him. Taking his inspiration from the biographical facts, McCann tells the story through a chorus of voices: there is Anna Vasileva, Rudi's first ballet teacher, who rescues her protégé from the stunted life of his town; Yulia, whose sexual and artistic ambitions are thwarted by her Soviet-sanctioned marriage; and Victor, the Venezuelan hustler, who reveals the lurid underside of the gay celebrity set. Spanning four decades and many worlds, from the horrors of Stalingrad to the wild abandon of New York in the eighties, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous: doormen and shoemakers, Margot Fonteyn and John Lennon. And at the heart of the spectacle stands the artist himself, willful, lustful, and driven by a never-to-be-met need for perfection.In ecstatic prose, McCann evokes the distinct consciousness of the man and the glittering reflection of the myth. The result is a monumental story of love, art, and exile.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A chorus of voices breathe new life into the story of Rudolf Nureyev, one of ballet's greatest performers, in this vibrant, imaginative patchwork of a novel by Irish expatriate McCann (This Side of Brightness, etc.). As a seven-year-old peasant boy in 1944, Rudi dances for wounded soldiers in a hospital ward during World War II. By the mid-1950s he has outgrown life in the tiny Soviet town of Ufa, his unfailing determination to perform (against the stern wishes of his father) driving him into the wider world. It is his stubborn persistence more than his natural talent that distinguishes him, but his first teachers see great potential in him, and he is accepted into a ballet company in Leningrad. He defects to France and later moves on to Italy, where "the ovations become more exhausting than the dance" and he is sucked into the drug and disco culture of the late '70s, even after his partner Margot Fonteyn urges him to stay focused. A relationship with New York gay hustler Victor Pareci allows Rudi to indulge his wildest impulses, but his brashness and self-absorption are tempered when he journeys back to his homeland in 1987 in the touching conclusion. The sections narrated by different characters, some central and some marginal, create a kaleidoscopic effect. Faithfully capturing the pathos and grim poverty of the Soviet Union at mid-century, McCann also reveals a splashy tabloid affinity for the excesses and effects of fame and notoriety. Though the focus here is narrower than that of McCann's previous works, the novel is a lovely showcase for his fluid prose and storytelling skill. (Jan. 6) Forecast: Balletomanes are the core audience for this novel, but Nureyev's appeal transcends the world of dance and should attract plenty of general readers as well. McCann's fans may be taken aback by his move from grit to gloss, but those who brave Dancer will likely enjoy it. Author tour. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this unique biographical novel, McCann creates a portrait of Rudolf Nureyev as perceived by the people who knew him. Using a cast of actors (William Dufris and others) to voice Nureyev's contemporaries presents a fractured likeness as if we are seeing reflections of his life in shards of mirror. Not a true biography, this work is more a character study of the many people in the dancer's life and the cultural changes that took place during his lifetime. The actors perform admirably accents from many countries are handled with skill. The audiobook spans Nureyev's years of poverty in the Soviet Union through his wildly decadent life in Andy Warhol's New York seeming to leave few stones unturned. The environments in Dancer are as changeable as light refracted through a prism. Recommended for libraries with contemporary literature or dance collections. Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fictionalized biography of Rudolf Nureyev (1938-93), chronicled in an understated, intimate narrative from the celebrated dancer's childhood to the height (and excesses) of his fame. The town of Ufa, in the former Soviet region of Bashkir, was about as far off the beaten track as you could get-especially under Stalin, when it was a secret industrial city not even allowed to appear on the map. Yet Ufa was to provide the first audience for one of the greatest stars in ballet history, who made his world premiere as a six-year-old dancing in the wards of WWII military hospitals. Talented from the start but no prodigy, Nureyev trained long and hard to become a dancer-first in Ufa (very much against the wishes of his father, a Party member who dreamed of having an engineer for a son), and later in Leningrad, where he became a member of the famed Kirov Ballet. When success arrived, it arrived quickly, and by the late 1950s Nureyev was doing command performances for Krushchev and the Central Committee. In 1961 he defected to the West, in Paris, transforming himself into cause célèbre-vilified at home (his father publicly denounced him) and idolized abroad. McCann (Everything in This Country Must, 2000, etc.) tells the story from different perspectives, in chapters narrated alternately by Anna Vasileva (Nureyev's first ballet teacher), Victor Parecci (the gay Venezualian prostitute who became his lover in New York), Yulia Sergeevna (his landlady in Leningrad), and Nureyev himself. Like many success stories, Nureyev's presented a depressing spectacle of vanity and decadence toward the end, and the later chapters (largely chronicles of parties, shopping sprees, hangovers, and petty spites) conveythis vividly. The ending, a description of Nureyev's 1987 return to visit his family in Ufa, is appropriate and moving. Balletomanes will love it, but the focus may seem obsessive to anyone who doesn't know who Margot Fonteyn is. Author tour
The New York Times Book Review

A beautiful, floating novel about Nureyev's life and art.
San Francisco Chronicle

Exuberant and exhilarating . . . A brilliant leap of imagination.
The Seattle Times

The goal of a book like this is to catch the spirit of the person and his age. It's a tall order, and one that Dancer pulls off brilliantly.
Newsday

Fascinating . . . A triumph of voice . . . McCann's fluid lyricism brilliantly convey's Nureyev's towering professional achievement and the wasteland of his personal life.
Los Angeles Times

A monumental life . . . Stylistically, Dancer is a leap itself.
The Baltimore Sun Terry Teachout

An engrossing portrait of a man so complex that no mere biography could possibly convey more than a sliver of his personality. . . . The Nureyev who strides impatiently through its pages seems entirely convincing.
USA Today

Every sentence sounds new and beautiful, no matter how often it's read.
Esquire

Dancer is the most breathtaking tribute to Nureyev since Jamie Wyeth's famous paintings.
Miami Herald

Dazzling . . . an intimate portrait . . . Dancer is bigger than the dance, bigger than biography, too. . . . Relish McCann's dizzy, fascinating glimpse.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466848696
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
06/25/2013
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
356
Sales rank:
111,993
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Colum McCann is the author of books including This Side of Brightness, Zoli, Songdogs and Let the Great World Spin. He has received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and was named the first winner of the Grace Kelly Memorial Foundation Award and the Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. He lives in New York City. Colum McCann is the author of books including This Side of Brightness, Zoli, Songdogs and Let the Great World Spin. He has received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and was named the first winner of the Grace Kelly Memorial Foundation Award and the Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt



From Dancer:
Just when we all thought they were finished, a small blond boy stepped out of the line. He extended his legs, placed his hands firmly on his hips and hitched his thumbs at his back. He bent his neck slightly forward, stretched his elbows out and began. The soldiers in their beds propped themselves up. The boy went to the floor for a squatting dance. We all stood silently watching. The boy grinned. Some soldiers began clapping in rhythm but, just as the dance was about to end, the boy almost fell. His hand slapped the floor and broke the impact. For a moment he looked as if he was about to cry, but he didn't, he was up once more, his blond hair flopping over his eyes.
When he finished the ward was full of applause. Someone offered the boy a cube of sugar. He blushed and slipped it into the top of his sock and then he stood around with his hands in his pockets, rolling his shoulders from side to side.

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