I'd love to get opinions from those of you who have read the various Nureyev bios. At my local public library one of the book groups is considering reading one of the recent dance bios (Jenifer Ringer and/or Misty Copeland) but some of the members suggested that for non-ballet goers those names are not well know and perhaps a book about Nureyev would appeal more. I've read the negative comments here about the Julie Kavanaugh book so I would definitely steer them away from that one. For these same reasons should they steer clear of Colum McCann's "Dancer: A Novel"? Is there a Nureyev bio that would appeal to a general audience? Thanks!
Nureyev Book Recommendation
Posted 05 June 2014 - 01:02 PM
I would recommend John Percival's "Nureyev: A Biography." Amazon shows a number of used copies for $5-15 (with shipping).
It's too bad people are looking for big names, autobiographies and memoirs being so different than biographies. Two of the best of those I've read are Barbara (Milberg) Fisher's "In Balanchine's Company" and Tamara Tchinarova Finch's "Dancing into the Unknown." Finch was in the Ballets Russes documentary: she was a friend of Irina Baranova, and sat next to Baranova in one interview, emphatically lauding Baranova's dancing. She was also married to Peter Finch, and writes about more than ballet.
Posted 05 June 2014 - 02:30 PM
The only Nureyev anecdote I have is not actually my own, but it is book-related. When my mother was an art undergrad in the 1960s, she had a part-time job working at the bookstore at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One day Nureyev swept into the shop, complete with floor-length coat and giant scarf, and demanded: "Geeve me most expensive book you have." She obliged with an album about Eugène Delacroix, which cost about $50 dollars in those days, probably in excess of $350 by today's standards. I've always wondered who the recipient of this extravagant gift might have been.
Posted 05 June 2014 - 06:26 PM
Hi, Barbara. Thanks for your question, it's a good one. It depends on your needs, I would think. If you're looking to read One Big Book, I'd recommend Diane Solway, but it's a lot of material to take in. For book group purposes the Kavanagh book is actually not a bad place to start IMO. The Percival book is invaluable, but it's a very early biography and your club might be looking for something a little more current. But if they don't mind the age of the book, it has fine stuff in it, particularly on Nureyev's Soviet background and training. Otis Stuart's Nureyev bio is amusing, but not sure if it's right for the group to start with.
Nureyev's memoir was a great ballet book that never happened, alas. Although I'm not sure if Rudi would ever have slowed down enough to write anything.
Your club might also enjoy Meredith Daneman's "Margot Fonteyn." A long book but it rolls right along. Karen Kain isn't one of ballet's most famous names, but she wrote an entertaining memoir, "Movement Never Lies," which also happens to have some good stories about Nureyev, a frequent partner of Kain's and also a mentor for her. It also has many photographs, which is great for a dance bio.
Posted 07 June 2014 - 06:27 AM
Forgot to mention the Peter Watson bio, perhaps because I have read about it but not read it. Would be interested to hear from those who have. I also neglected to add that because Nureyev was such an astonishing camera subject, he inspired a great many coffee-table volumes. I don't know if those would be to the taste of your club, but I think they would help in understanding the Nureyev phenomenon. NIgel Gosling aka Alexander Bland, who knew the subject, also produced some worthwhile material about Nureyev.
Posted 09 June 2014 - 12:25 PM
Just a caveat on Meredith Daneman's "Margot Fonteyn". It was indeed well-written and exhaustively researched, but I actually ended up almost wishing I hadn't read it. It told me more about Margot Fonteyn than I guess I really wanted to know, including some very depressing material......read at your own risk.
Posted 09 June 2014 - 01:36 PM
A deciding factor might be the time and energy that the book group members have to spend. Another might be whether the book is available on Kindle.
Copeland (288 pp.) and Ringer (288 pp) are available on Kindle.
So is Kavanaugh's Nureyev biography , but that weighs in at 848 pp.
Solway (635pp.) is not on Kindle, at least as listed on Amazon. Neither is Daneman's biography of Fonteyn (672 pp.).
Posted 09 June 2014 - 05:17 PM
Thank you all for your helpful suggestions! I had a talk with the Adult Services Librarian today. The plan I suggested was to read the two recent memoirs (Ringer and Copeland, short and easy reads) and then purchase tickets to the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky program done by NYCB in the fall. This book group likes to read a book and tie it in with a visit to the theatre or a museum. This will be their first foray into the world of ballet. For some of the reasons cited above, while I think the Nureyev and Fonteyn books would be worthwhile for anyone to read, for purposes of this group they're simply too long and detailed. We'll be able to easily get enough copies of the recent memoirs and then I'll give them a suggested reading list of memoirs (Tallchief, D'Amboise, Farrell, Kent, Villella, etc as well as the Nureyev/Fonteyn bios) if they'd like to personally delve further. It sounds like the library is willing to open the invitation to members outside of the book group so a large enough group can be gathered together. If folks are willing to pay a little extra we may even take advantage of the backstage tour and also the First Position discussion. I love to introduce "non-believers" to dance so we'll see how this goes. PS - I'm usually more of an ABT-girl myself, but I have to say that NYCB does a better job of audience outreach and I think this group will enjoy the neo-classicism. I'll report back about how it all turns out.
Posted 09 June 2014 - 09:43 PM
Sounds like an excellent plan -- have a great time, and let us know what happens next!
Posted 10 June 2014 - 06:02 AM
Just chiming in with sandik. I think that sounds like a solid plan, and do let us know how things develop.
I also liked Varley O'Connor's recent novel about Tanaquil Le Clercq, "The Master's Muse" - however, as the link here indicates, mine was a minority opinion.
A link to the Ballet Alert thread on the Meredith Daneman book here.
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