Books by Lincoln Kirstein

MOSAIC by Lincoln Kirstein
Released: May 1, 1994

This memoir by the octogenarian Kirstein (Portrait of Mr. B, 1984) displays a Proustian sensibility in its wholesale allegiance to art and the senses and in its nostalgic tableau vivant of times and places past. From its astonishing, sensual opening sentence (``The pear was plump, ripe, juicy, palm jade''), this is the story of the education of Kirstein's aesthetic sensibility and its fulfillment in his most lasting achievement, the founding of the New York City Ballet. Despite its revealing tone, it is not intimate (due partly to sometimes stuffy prose), yet it is almost always engaging. This self-portrait shows the young Kirstein to be by turns charming and expansive, self-deprecating and confused as he learns that, contrary to his hopes, he is not destined to be an artist. Kirstein is the son of German Jews who penetrated the upper reaches of Boston society. Gifted with what he calls ``nervous energy'' and a wealthy, supportive papa, the self-described hedonist pursues his artistic and amorous fancies from Harvard to Paris to New York City. The strange highlights of Kirstein's life shine through: An encounter with the mystic Gurdjieff is at once chilling and comic; pursuing the low life, Kirstein conceives an unrequited love for a gritty sailor. The chapters dealing with Kirstein's precocious founding of Hound & Horn and the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art are oddly devoid of passion; but the grand spectacle of his life, narrated in this volume's last chapter, begins in 1933. In Paris, where he seeks out the ballet, the intrigues and jealousies of artists, dancers, and stage mothers are topped only by the supreme wiles of Romola Nijinsky, in whose service Kirstein finds himself. Kirstein, now an impresario-in-training, courts George Balanchine, hoping he will found a ballet school and company—in Hartford, Connecticut. Of course, a Balanchine-led Hartford Ballet was not to be. One hopes that Kirstein's elliptical ending is the promise of another volume to complete his colorful mosaic. Read full book review >
PUSS IN BOOTS by Lincoln Kirstein
adapted by Lincoln Kirstein, illustrated by Alain Vaës
Released: March 1, 1992

A cinematic expansion of Perrault's (uncredited) story in large, elaborately illustrated format. Kirstein adds explanatory detail typical of a dramatization, some of it reflecting 20th- century concerns—e.g., the miller's older sons, ``worried about his failing memory,'' force him to write a will. Also, the cat uses a magic feather to restore the fields ravaged by the ogre, and is last seen lording it over some mice who are polishing the boots he's turned to gold. There's nothing terribly wrong with these additions, but they don't add much, either. Vaâs, a costume designer for the New York City Ballet, provides a sumptuous, meticulously detailed setting recalling the Louis XIV era, depicting peasants and nobles with satirical glee (W. C. Fields plays the king) and the cat with the wry precision of an affectionate longtime observer of his species. Overblown, perhaps, but there's much to admire in the skillfully crafted art with its multitude of 17th-century references. (Folklore/Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >