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Agringado

Joan Acocella

14 December 1995
Flamenco Deep Song 
by Timothy Mitchell.
Yale, 232 pp., £18.95, January 1995, 0 300 06001 7
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¡Tango! The Dance, the Song, the Story 
by Simon Collier, Artemis Cooper, María Susana Azzi and Richard Martin.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £24.95, October 1995, 0 500 01671 2
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Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba 
by Yvonne Daniel.
Open University, 196 pp., £27.50, August 1995, 0 253 31605 7
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... In France, we do it lying down,’ a French minister is reported to have said on first seeing the tango. He was not far wrong. The tango crystallised at the end of the 19th century in the brothels of Buenos Aires. It was a dance of prostitutes and pimps, and in its ineluctable rhythms, its belly-to-belly stance, its interlacing of legs, it reflected their professional concerns ...

Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars

14 December 2000
Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... done: snatch up La Duse and let gabbly old Bernhardt go to hell. In her new book on the novelist, Joan Acocella speaks with some reverence of Cath-er’s ‘Duse revelation’: the young writer’s precocious verdict, having seen both actresses perform onstage in the 1890s, that Duse was the superior artist because of the classical restraint she ...

You gu gu and I gu gu

Andrew O’Hagan: Vaslav Nijinsky

20 July 2000
The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky 
edited by Joan Acocella and Kyril Fitzylon.
Allen Lane, 312 pp., £20, August 1999, 0 7139 9354 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Macmillan, 396 pp., £12, May 2000, 0 333 76622 9
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... patron saint of modern art? His diaries can now be read for the first time in their original form. Joan Acocella’s restoration is a job very well done: she has elegantly failed to spare the blushes of the dead, and instead what we have is a final, proper edition of Nijinsky’s diary, a dark assemblage that can sometimes read like out-takes from the ...

Sashimi with a Side of Fries

Adam Thirlwell: Michael Chabon

16 August 2007
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union 
by Michael Chabon.
Fourth Estate, 414 pp., £17.99, June 2007, 978 0 00 715039 7
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... a thief, a shkotz. The ‘very ignobility’ of such characters ‘is a bid for respectability’, Joan Acocella wrote in the New Yorker. ‘Bellow doesn’t feel that he has to protect them. And by that route he made the lives of Jews a normal subject for American literature.’ And Chabon is returning to this tradition. His zany implausible unhistorical ...

To the Great God Pan

Laura Jacobs: Goddess Isadora

23 October 2013
My Life: The Restored Edition 
by Isadora Duncan.
Norton, 322 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 87140 318 6
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... spectral engagement with their mother. Liveright’s restored edition contains an introduction by Joan Acocella. Her tone is characteristically droll, except when it becomes strangely grudging, as if she is unconvinced that Duncan was worth all the fuss. It’s odd, considering that Acocella wrote a book on the ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth

23 March 2006
Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... legend of Henry Roth the master novelist who called it silence for sixty years’, as he puts it. Joan Acocella, for example, has suggested that Roth may have had ‘another, less sensational problem: that he couldn’t produce a finished manuscript without a full-time editor’. Kellman broadly confirms this – Weil and Steele even wrote the last ...

Half Snake, Half Panther

James Davidson: Nijinsky

26 September 2013
Nijinsky 
by Lucy Moore.
Profile, 324 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 1 84668 618 4
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... genius and madness, and in particular about modernist madness. In the most obvious sense, as Joan Acocella notes in her introduction to the 1999 edition, mad people, like avant-garde artists, are used to being misunderstood. But Moore goes further. She thinks that ‘many of the diary’s characteristics are qualities of early modernist ...

No Beast More Refined

James Davidson: How Good Was Nureyev?

29 November 2007
Rudolf Nureyev: The Life 
by Julie Kavanagh.
Fig Tree, 787 pp., £25, September 2007, 978 1 905490 15 8
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... out of the book if they keep a glossary within easy reach. It was nice to have a bit of help from Joan Acocella when it comes to Nureyev’s obsession with Bournonvillean petite batterie: his ‘goddamn ronds de jambe and those little steppy things’. Kavanagh is very illuminating, though, on national company styles, on the speed and strength of the New ...

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