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Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran

Dancer from the Dance (1978)

by Andrew Holleran

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619715,730 (3.97)19
  1. 12
    The Wild Swans by Peg Kerr (amberwitch)
    amberwitch: Wild Swans contain a fairy tale retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson story "The Wild Swans". Entwined with this, but only tangentially related, is the coming of age story of a gay youth in New York. This is the aftermath of the wild 70'es described in Dancer from the Dance.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This is a beautifully-written novel about gay life in Manhattan in the decadent years. About the "pleasure-seekers, so bent on pleasure that they were driving right through Happiness" on their way to Fire Island as the season was ending. The story of Malone's descent is told with believable details and facets of the fabulous life--dancing and pretending that everything is brilliant and gay. With vivid imagery, lush language, and captivating depiction the gay men searching for love and acceptance in harsh, dreamlike urban landscape become as real as their life in the nineteen-seventies. The novel is notable for its literary quality and its fine portrayal of the party atmosphere of Fire Island, a summer community on Long Island.
The title of the novel is from the last line of William Butler Yeats's poem "Among School Children" which ends, "O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,/ Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?/ O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,/ How can we know the dancer from the dance?" ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Apr 17, 2014 |
This is a truly amazing pre-AIDS novel suffused with suffering and death but full of hope, almost as if Holleran was preparing the community for the on-slaught waiting in its wings. He has a lot of say about what's superficial and what's important in life and ultimately how they're intertwined, not to mention distorted by drugs. I've read and heard first-hand accounts of the circuit scene in New York in the 70s, and I thought Holleran added nuance and insight into a period that I think is a really important on in the history of sexual liberation.

Oh, and the writing is gorgeous. ( )
  aulsmith | Jul 14, 2013 |
Once upon a time, I didn’t know there was a genre called gay literature. Not being gay myself, perhaps this is understandable—but not forgivable. When I discovered this rich world, the first book I read was this one. It’s not likely that anyone who knows anything about gay lit hasn’t read this book, so I’ll just offer the ways in which it affected me rather than try to describe the book itself.

The Stonewall riots weren’t even a decade behind the timeframe of this story, and in the eyes of someone outside the gay community, this book depicts how people who had been cruelly restrained by persecution and societal shame began to express themselves explosively and unabashedly, even as they carried their past shame with them. Certainly, the main character, Malone, seems to struggle to express his true nature while wallowing in shame that was forced on him from external sources, and he carries both to extremes.

This book, along with the next books I read from this genre (by authors such as Edmund White and John Rechy), are the reason I didn’t go to see Brokeback Mountain. By the time that film came out, not only did I not need to be told what happens when people are forced to live lives that are against their natures, but also I was chomping at the bit for stories in which gay people had promising futures, stories in which their fortunes were not dictated by their sexual orientation alone, but by the entirety of who they are as people. And these are the stories I write. So to Holleran’s classic I owe the impetus for my own work in a genre I didn’t even know about before I read this book. ( )
  RobinReardon | Sep 18, 2010 |
Remarkable how influential this novel was, how so much of its tone has shaped gay consciousness and discourse over the last two generations. It's set in the fast and furious sexual and social world of lower Manhattan and Fire Island in the 1970s. "Dancer" pre-dates the onslaught of AIDS/HIV, but even so, an elegaic atmosphere of memory and loss pervades its pages. Certainly the novel reflects the rampant coupling and promiscuity that was the rule in the post-1960s era of Gay Liberation. But in a larger sense, "Dancer from the Dance" is about the Education of Americans. It echoes earlier novels about initiation and enlightenment set in New York, most notably "The Great Gatsby." Like the Fitzgerald, "Dancer" is terribly disillusioning. In American culture, those who seek to go "over the rainbow" ultimately realize that Oz is an illusionary world of people wearing green-tinted glasses.... ( )
  yooperprof | Sep 18, 2008 |
Not only dated, but a very tiring novel that seems to reiterate it's themes over and over with characters that are anything but admirable or anyone you would want to know. Prides itself on being the ultimate chronicling of the pre-Aids gay NYC in the 70's but doesn't hold up today. ( )
  dugmel | Mar 23, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
- heck !
- I didn't even finish it.
- I just couldn't go on.
- I stop reading it after about the third or fourth chapter.
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Labor is blossoming or dancing where / The body is not bruised to pleasure soul, / Nor beauty born out of its own despair, / Nor bleary-eyed wisdom our to midnight oil. / O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer, / Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? / O body swayed to the music, O brightening glance, / How can we know the dancer from the dance? (Yeats, "Among the schoolchildren")
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Midnight / The Deep South / Ecstasy, It's finally spring down here on the Chattahoochee-- the azaleas are in bloom, and everyone is dying of cancer.
--- What I said earlier was wrong: We don't have to do anything with our lives. As long as you are alive, there's an end to it. (Paul, last page)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060937068, Paperback)

One of the most important works of gay literature, this haunting, brilliant novel is a seriocomic remembrance of things past -- and still poignantly present. It depicts the adventures of Malone, a beautiful young man searching for love amid New York's emerging gay scene. From Manhattan's Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island's deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen -- and one of the most memorable literary creations of contemporary fiction. Hilarious, witty, and ultimately heartbreaking, Dancer from the Dance is truthful, provocative, outrageous fiction told in a voice as close to laughter as to tears.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:56 -0400)

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