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


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#61 Neryssa

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 05:59 PM

Although we won't be able to arrive at a consensus about the issues raised in this thread, one thing seems clear: This is a novel, pure and simple, not a "novelization" based on solid research - the vaunted "hundreds of hours of documentaries and NYCB footage" do not exist, and neither Le Clercq nor her friends were talking; so, barring mediumistic intervention, there is no basis for the author's claim that Le Clercq's authentic essence has been tapped. This is what concerns me about the book - not its form, but its claims. These strike me as offensively opportunistic, even shameful. I would not have had such a strong reaction if the novel had been marketed as essential fabrication, rather than distilled essence - but then, who would have bought it?


There is an author's note in the book which describes more fully the extent of Ms. O'Connor's research. It includes at least one very important interview with someone who was on the European tour, and this has a major ramification in the book; viewing all of Le Clercq's available performances, both online and at the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library; viewing hundreds of hours of documentaries and performances relating to Balanchine, his ballet predecessors, Le Clercq, Robbins, etc.; reading almost every book in English related to Le Clercq and Balanchine; Le Clercq's two books; examination of dozens of photographs, etc. The quote "hundreds of hours of documentaries and NYCB footage" does not mean hundreds of hours of Le Clercq dancing!


Actually I've done as much out of personal interest and in relation to a project I have been researching for some time - at least one interview with a member of the New York City Ballet during that astonishing period? Only one or two? Certainly, I will be fair and read it but her research is not all that mind-boggling as far as books or interviews go. I am not a person or writer of consequence but I reserve the right to be wary - and vent as long as the forum allows me to -
P.S. I think it was established earlier that "...hundreds of hours of documentaries..." do not exist. Hundreds of hours of footage?

#62 dirac

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 09:25 PM

Brubach's article concedes the book is well researched.

#63 CBrandon

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:17 PM

I don't believe this author truly wanted to step on another person's grave in such a way, but she has done so. It's sacred ground, really. Some people, especially in the culture of celebrity we now live in, do not recognize such sacred borders exist.

Saying that this is what the novelist does is fairly simplistic. The novelist does not simply appropriate the inner lives of real people. That, in fact, is the opposite of what they do. They invent the inner lives of imagined people.

#64 lmspear

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:42 PM

Irving Stone spent his whole career doing exactly that.

#65 dirac

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:46 AM

They invent the inner lives of imagined people.


Well, yes, using the known facts and historical background as a basis.

Ah, Irving Stone. Not the world's greatest writer by any means, but he introduced me to a lot of history. I remember particularly enjoying his spirited defense of Jessie Benton Fremont. And "Lust for Life" is a good book, full stop.

#66 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 02:39 PM


They invent the inner lives of imagined people.


Well, yes, using the known facts and historical background as a basis.

Ah, Irving Stone. Not the world's greatest writer by any means, but he introduced me to a lot of history. I remember particularly enjoying his spirited defense of Jessie Benton Fremont. And "Lust for Life" is a good book, full stop.


I think I read "The Agony and the Ecstasy" something like four times between the ages of 12 and 14. Until I went to college, every thing I knew about Andrew Jackson I learned from "The President's Lady."

#67 Neryssa

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 01:07 PM

Wow, great review by Joel Lobenthal: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2012/02/5366853/muse-many-faces-ballerina-tanaquil-le-clercqs-life-and-times-and-aft

He should write a pictorial biography since he wrote such a great article in Ballet Review.

#68 Bonnette

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 03:28 PM

Thank you, Neryssa, that was a thorough and insightful review...I, too, think that this would be a good time for Lobenthal to finally undertake his dreamt-of biography.

#69 Neryssa

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 03:37 PM

My apologies for being so gauche but I was pleased to learn that she had some romance in her life before, during and after Mr. Balanchine. Anyway, I wonder why O'Connor didn't study the primary sources as in Le Clercq's archive? I wonder if one needs permission.

#70 balletreader

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 08:07 AM

Hello all,
I am the editor of the novel, The Master's Muse by Varley O'Connor. As a former dancer, I was captivated by Tanaquil Le Clercq's story and also regretted that she left no autobiography for us to read. When I came across Varley O'Connor's vivid imagining of Tanny's life, I thought that this novel would be a wonderful way for the world to get to imagine what we could never really know--how Tanny experienced parts of her own life. Isn't this the point of great fiction: to allow us to envision what others' might think or feel? I invite you all to read the book when it is released in May; I think you'll find that it is very respectful of Le Clercq and her legacy.

In the meantime, you might be interested in this article written about the book by a friend of Tanaquil Le Clercq's, which I believe Neryssa also posted: http://www.capitalne...d-times-and-aft

Enjoy and thank you all for your interest in The Master's Muse!

#71 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 02:20 AM

i think the point of great fiction would be to envision what imaginary characters think or feel, imaginary being the operative word. there are people out there who knew her a little and those who knew her not at all. she didn't share; what your author is "sharing" is an imagination and her name is being used to sell the book and create "buzz" or whatever word is used nowadays. i'd rather read an imagined history of an imagined character. but i don't find the concept respectful and i will not read the book.

#72 Brioche

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 09:36 AM

i think the point of great fiction would be to envision what imaginary characters think or feel, imaginary being the operative word. there are people out there who knew her a little and those who knew her not at all. she didn't share; what your author is "sharing" is an imagination and her name is being used to sell the book and create "buzz" or whatever word is used nowadays. i'd rather read an imagined history of an imagined character. but i don't find the concept respectful and i will not read the book.


Well said Mme. Hermine. Exactly how I feel about the matter and I am hoping this "buzz" will produce the long awaited biography to materialize.

#73 Bonnette

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 09:53 AM

Well said Mme. Hermine. Exactly how I feel about the matter and am hoping this "buzz" will produce the long awaited biography to materialize.

Yes, indeed. Perhaps a collaborative effort between Brubach and Lobenthal would be productive - one can but hope!

#74 Brioche

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:01 AM

Wow, great review by Joel Lobenthal: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2012/02/5366853/muse-many-faces-ballerina-tanaquil-le-clercqs-life-and-times-and-aft

He should write a pictorial biography since he wrote such a great article in Ballet Review.


I don't find it a good "review" really. However the information he provides is very interesting and appears to be factual. As it has been
said, time for Lobenthal and Brubach to team together and produce that tome!

#75 LiLing

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 11:21 AM

There have been a number of roman a clef novels set in the ballet world. Those in the know can recognize the dancers and companies these are based on. By changing the names however, the author makes it clear that this is fiction albeit based on real people.
Why didn't Ms 0'Connor take this approach? Putting thoughts into HER head, "marketing a book about Tanaquil Le Clercq will create buzz and sales".


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