Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

"The Master's Muse" by Varley O'ConnorNew novel about Le Clercq and Balanchine


  • Please log in to reply
147 replies to this topic

#136 LiLing

LiLing

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 205 posts

Posted 22 May 2012 - 10:04 AM

I vowed not to buy this book, but was able to get it from the library. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I did cringe at a couple of things, and then had to remind myself, wait a minute, this is fiction.
My one objection to the book is the very negative portrayal of Susanne Farrell, which I found mean spirited and unfair, even stooping to quoting petty gossip, such as other dancers referring to her family as the Joads of NYCB.
As Miss Farrell is still very much alive and active in the ballet world, this made me very sad. I hope she doesn't read it.

#137 Neryssa

Neryssa

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 163 posts

Posted 23 May 2012 - 01:34 PM

I vowed not to buy this book, but was able to get it from the library. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I did cringe at a couple of things, and then had to remind myself, wait a minute, this is fiction.
My one objection to the book is the very negative portrayal of Susanne Farrell, which I found mean spirited and unfair, even stooping to quoting petty gossip, such as other dancers referring to her family as the Joads of NYCB.
As Miss Farrell is still very much alive and active in the ballet world, this made me very sad. I hope she doesn't read it.


An unfortunate term but Suzanne Farrell was not a sophisticate (unlike Le Clercq) until she studied with Balanchine and later lived in Europe for several years. There are many cringe-worthy moments in the novel's preview but I am still waiting for the book via interlibrary loan.

#138 Stage Right

Stage Right

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 134 posts

Posted 01 June 2012 - 09:44 AM

I found this book at the library a few days ago, and just finished reading it. (It was so new at the library, that I believe I was the first reader of a very new-looking book!). I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I liked it very much. I thought that basically, it was well-done, well-researched and written. It certainly was pleasant to read, and I read it in one day since I wasn't feeling well, and had taken a day off to rest. Since I have read many books about NYCB dancers and Balanchine, a lot of it covered familiar ground. As many posters here have mentioned, why not a biography rather than a novel? After reading it, I have the same question, because obviously so much research went into it. I can think of only two possibilities: first, that the writer preferred writing it as a novel, as she is a novelist! (This also allowed her to write it in the first person, which I actually enjoyed, as it gives a sense that you are privy to the main character's thoughts and feelings). Or, that she would need permission from someone to do a biography and was for whatever reason, unable to do so. At times I found that the writing itself bothered me a bit, as the author has a way of phrasing her sentences which often caused me to have to reread them as the meaning was not immediately apparent, but I got used to that. The thing that bothered me most was not knowing where the author may have inserted fictional material. She does have an Author's Note at the end which clarifies some things but not others. Basically, most of the main action and characters are apparently based on reality. The two main questions I was left with were: did the "dipping the finger in the water in Venice" really happen ( her answer to this was yes). And, was the character of "Carl" real, and did that relationship actually happen? The author did not clarify that--does anyone here know? I hope it is true! The final thing that bothered me is that she ended the story with Balanchine's death. Novelistically, I can understand this, but Tannaquil lived many years after that, and I would like to know more about her life AFTER Balanchine! In some ways. this book seemed as much a story of Balanchine as it was of LeClercq......(and, may I say, I thought the author did a wonderful job of navigating the nuances of what have been a very complex relationship and marriage).

#139 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,511 posts

Posted 02 June 2012 - 03:39 PM

Thanks for the detailed review, StageRight. I have my copy waiting to be read. So many books, so little time, etc......

#140 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,511 posts

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:50 AM

Finally got around to this one. StageRight's review is on the mark. Generally well written and well researched, often using Le Clercq's own words.

The final thing that bothered me is that she ended the story with Balanchine's death. Novelistically, I can understand this, but Tanaquil lived many years after that, and I would like to know more about her life AFTER Balanchine! In some ways. this book seemed as much a story of Balanchine as it was of LeClercq......(and, may I say, I thought the author did a wonderful job of n a vigating the nuances of what have been a very complex relationship and marriage).



O'Connor does point out that Le Clercq had relationships that O'Connor chose not to mention or emphasize, preferring to focus on the marriage. (She does make it clear that Le Clercq had a life apart from Balanchine.) True, the book is called “The Master’s Muse” and it’s a legitimate choice for a writer to make, but I agree it would have been nice to read on a bit more after the death of Balanchine and in fact the story seems to end rather abruptly. The book is actually quite careful and reticent as biographical novels go – O’Connor could have plunged in a little deeper. The occasionally difficult relations between Le Clercq and her mother aren’t really touched upon. The writing can’t conjure the distinctive Le Clercquian fizz and wit, but that would be tough for any writer. Her Le Clercq doesn’t always understand le mystère Balanchine, the "cloud in trousers," and O'Connor suggests that he was in some ways finally unknowable. Not at all the gloppy fiction I had feared.

O'Connor's ballet judgments as expressed by "Le Clercq" in the first-person narrative can be doubtful. She has Le Clercq inform us that Balanchine emphasized women and Ashton emphasized men. Huh? Not a judgment a woman who worked with both men would have made. (Ashton liked to sleep with men, but his artistic preoccupations were another matter entirely.)

#141 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,511 posts

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:55 AM

I vowed not to buy this book, but was able to get it from the library. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I did cringe at a couple of things, and then had to remind myself, wait a minute, this is fiction.
My one objection to the book is the very negative portrayal of Susanne Farrell, which I found mean spirited and unfair, even stooping to quoting petty gossip, such as other dancers referring to her family as the Joads of NYCB.
As Miss Farrell is still very much alive and active in the ballet world, this made me very sad. I hope she doesn't read it.


The reference makes sense in context. I was more struck by the fact that O'Connor felt it necessary to explain for the reader that the Joads are characters in "The Grapes of Wrath." Of course, she's probably right to do so.

#142 pasdequatre

pasdequatre

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 16 posts

Posted 02 March 2013 - 05:30 PM

I read most of this book last year. I'm glad I'm a distant poster on this topic since I hope no one reads this as it is not a positive review. But as I recall, I returned it to the library unfinished because it was just not interesting. It takes talent to turn a true life drama into soap opera. Not worth going to the library for.

#143 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,511 posts

Posted 02 March 2013 - 10:22 PM

Thanks for posting anyway, pasdequatre. If you didn't like it, you didn't like it.

The line between "true-life" drama and soap opera, or melodrama, can be quite thin. (The resemblance between Nijinsky/Diaghilev - The Red Shoes - Farrell/Balanchine is remarkably close.)

#144 Margareta

Margareta

    New Member

  • New Member
  • Pip
  • 4 posts

Posted 29 March 2016 - 05:38 PM

I'm new to this forum and this book inspired my interest in Tanaquil Le Clercq. I had never heard of her, but saw this book as a "librarian's favorite" at my library so checked it out. It seems to be very controversial on this forum, but at the very least it seems to have brought about a renewed interest in this spectacular ballerina.

So in this regard, I would say the book has had a positive effect.

#145 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,511 posts

Posted 31 March 2016 - 03:25 PM

Many thanks for reviving this thread, Margareta. As you may know, a documentary was released on Le Clercq's life not too long ago (discussion thread here if you're interested). Sort of a boomlet of interest in Le Clercq and her dramatic story. How did you like the book?



#146 Margareta

Margareta

    New Member

  • New Member
  • Pip
  • 4 posts

Posted 11 May 2016 - 11:04 AM

Dirac, I enjoyed the book.  It has piqued my interest in that period of ballet, so now I'm reading Suzanne Farrell's autobiography and have finished Allegra Kent's.  

 

I did the see the documentary - watched 2x as a matter of fact.  Loved it!  I do wish there was more information available about Le Clercq.  



#147 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,511 posts

Posted 29 May 2016 - 12:12 PM

It's nice how enjoying one interesting book can inspire readers to look further. Sounds like a great reading list. Farrell's bio and Kent's bio are an interesting contrast.

 

There's a fine interview with Le Clercq in Barbara Newman's collection of interviews with dancers, "Striking a Balance." Le Clercq's is one of the best. Her voice was unique. I only wish that the documentary had been made during her lifetime with her as a participant.



#148 pherank

pherank

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,680 posts

Posted 15 June 2016 - 12:27 PM

Dirac, I enjoyed the book.  It has piqued my interest in that period of ballet, so now I'm reading Suzanne Farrell's autobiography and have finished Allegra Kent's.  

 

I did the see the documentary - watched 2x as a matter of fact.  Loved it!  I do wish there was more information available about Le Clercq.  

 

For the completist, I recommend the Jacques D'Amboise autobiography I was a Dancer - Le Clercq figures fairly prominently, and that was one of the few sources for information on Le Clercq's personality that we had until the documentary was released.

 

Oh, and it is also an engrossing book.  ;)




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users



Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases. (If it doesn't appear below, your computer's or browser's adblockers may have blocked display):