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Dancer by Colum McCann

Dancer (2003)

by Colum McCann

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I have an interest with the cold war and the defections that took place during the height of communism so it's kinda surprising that I haven't read more on the subject. This book covers that, ticks the Russia box plus throws in some dance and was on special offer, which all appeals to me.

I think mostly everyone has seen, whether they know it or not, a little bit of Rudolf Nureyev dance. He was a superstar and his early performances can be found on youtube still but I knew nothing about him apart from the fact that he was an amazing ballet dancer who had defected in the early 60s. This book wasn't exactly a biography because it had amalgamations of people, and suppposings flung in amongst the facts, but there was enough truth about it to be informative.

The actual style of the book was weird for me. Speech wasn't shown conventionally, the book was split into books with very few chapters within them and perspective would shift from one character to another from page to page without telling you who it was you were reading so it kept you on your toes as you were reading. It was a little confusing at times, but it was engrossing enough that I wanted to stick with it anyway.

It covered 'Rudi' Nureyev's life from child-hood to his trip home and ended with the auction prices his belongings had sold for after his death. He was a complex character - a perfectionist who was at times deeply unlikeable but at others you almost wanted to shelter him. His relationship with Margot Fontaine was portrayed beautifully, which (combined with her financial issues) explained why they continued to dance together for so long (she still danced with him when she was 69 years old and he was 50). Rudi was decadent and used and discarded men for pleasure yet never really found any deep, lasting love or pleasure in life. The most touching part of the book for me was his visit home to see his dying mother in 1989, nearly 30 years after his defection. He showered his sister and niece with gifts and refused to leave his mother until she recognised him, but she never did.

It was a good book and has me curious as to maybe reading a different account that would perhaps be a little more thorough. I just don't know enough about him to know which parts of the story were fictionalised and enhanced for dramatic purposes (he even admits some of the celebrity accounts weren't accurate, which is a shame because they were fascinating) so eventually I might get an actual biography and try and find out what is right and what's not.

Still though, it was definitely worth a read so not going to complain too much. ( )
  sunnycouger | Sep 20, 2013 |
Colum McCann is dreamy, no question about it. And his use of language is pretty good, too! This one just didn't do it for me. Not even close to the quality of [b:Let The Great World Spin|5941033|Let the Great World Spin|Colum McCann|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1275935615s/5941033.jpg|6113503]. That book is so good I want to read it for the rest of my life. This book will not get a single re-read. ( )
  cat-ballou | Apr 2, 2013 |
This was a good read. I thought Nureyev was a real sh.t ,who was prepared to sacrifice everybody for his own success. but then I forgave him for the wonderful talent that he shared with the world . The writer (one of my favourites) gives a wonderful insight into the lives of the people who were affected by him. ( )
  lesleynicol | Feb 10, 2013 |
This book was everything. Utterly immersive, descriptive, and world-opening. Characters too weird to be fake, homoerotic bathhouse antics too perverse to be invented. Ass was kicked by this book. ( )
  lucthegreat | Sep 25, 2012 |
All of a sudden, about an hour into this novel, I realized the author was setting Rudolf Nureyev up as the protagonaist. The novel is fictional, and is really more about the ripples experienced by the people in his life, in the life of a famous person. In the novel, Margot Fonteyn (Nureyev's partner for many years) says that the dancer's life is magnificently full, and desperately empty at the same time. That statement really sums up the gist of the story. Passion and tragedy walk hand in hand throughout his life. I have gathered that from some biographies of famous individuals, particularly "Long Walk To Freedom" by Nelsom Mandela. It seems that fame requires adjustment to a level of imbalance in life which, from the outside looking in, seems exquisitely painful. Very good book! ( )
  hemlokgang | May 16, 2011 |
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Four winters.
Perhaps, then, you should forget everything I have said to you and remember only this: The real beauty in life is that beauty can sometimes occur.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312423187, Paperback)

Taking his inspiration from biographical facts, novelist Colum McCann tells the erotically charged story of the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev through the cast of those who knew him: there is Anna Vasileva, Rudi's first ballet teacher, who rescues her protégé from the stunted life of his provincial town; Yulia, whose sexual and artistic ambitions are thwarted by her Soviet-sanctioned marriage; and Victor, the Venezuelan street hustler, who reveals the lurid underside of the gay celebrity set. Spanning four decades and many worlds, from the horrors of the Second World War to the wild abandon of New York in the eighties, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous: doormen and shoemakers, nurses and translators, Margot Fonteyn, Eric Bruhn and John Lennon. And at the heart of the spectacle stands the artist himself, willful, lustful, and driven by a never-to-be-met need for perfection.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:20 -0400)

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"A Russian peasant who became an international legend, a Cold War exile who inspired the adoration of millions, an artist whose name was a byword for genius, sex, and excess. The magnificence of Rudolf Nureyev's life and work is known, but now Colum McCann reinvents this figure through the light he shed on the lives of those who knew him." "Boldly embellishing the biographical facts, McCann tells the story through a chorus of voices. There is Anna Vasileva, Rudi's first ballet teacher, who, banished from St. Petersburg, rescues her preternaturally talented protege from the stunted life of his town; Yulia, whose sexual and artistic ambitions are thwarted by her Soviet-sanctioned marriage; Victor, a decadent Venezuelan, who revels in the hedonism of the gay celebrity set; Odile, the legendary cook, who finds love at middle age while feeding the great and their hangers-on. Spanning four decades and many worlds, from the killing fields of World War II to the wild abandon of New York's gaudy eighties, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous, real and imagined."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Colum McCann chatted with LibraryThing members from Mar 1, 2010 to Mar 14, 2010. Read the chat.

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