I didn't find Homans particularly credible in her last tome in the way she dismissed aesthetics that weren't to her taste, and I have no reason to believe any of her other work will be more balanced. I'll have to wait for the book to see if I'm wrong.
Agreed. I'd have been less irritated by "Apollo's Angels" had it been written and billed as a straight-up attempt at dance criticism rather than as a comprehensive history of an art form. I grew weary of being told that this or that work wasn't really
ballet because it didn't fall within the confines of Homans' tendentious definition of the form. She's too heavily invested in selling the idea that ballet is an exemplar of a particular kind of moral rigor to be able to deliver an objective history, much less a workable definition.
Anyway, when I read the opening paragraph in Pamela Erens' review
of Janet Malcolm's Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers
, I knew exactly what kind of book about Balanchine I really wanted:
Janet Malcolm understands that artists make things. This may seem a more than obvious truth, but it’s startling how often it is sidelined. A fair amount of writing about artists is premised on the idea that they are better or worse or more generous or brutish or attuned to the subtle vibrations of the universe than the rest of us. Malcolm doesn’t seem to think so, and it’s very refreshing. The profiles in her new collection Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers focus primarily on thing-making – the ideas behind it, the process of it, and the way those things are received by the public – as opposed to personality. Not that personality is missing from her essays; the reader gets a very strong sense of various artistic characters and their mannerisms. But there is little here of sleazy affairs, bad behavior toward family and colleagues, or other familiar fodder of artistic biography. (Often such biography suggests that the artist’s main career is being an asshole, while the paintings or photographs or books happen somehow in his free time.)
from "Making Things Is Hard Work: Janet Malcolm’s Forty-One False Starts," posted in The Millions on May 7, 2013
I know enough about Balanchine's life; what I really want to understand is his art.
ETA: I'm not by any means suggesting that we ought avert our eyes from the uglier episodes in Balanchine's life. We don't need a hagiography either.