DANCING IN THE DARK by Barbara Lazear Ascher


Romance, Yearning, and the Search for the Sublime
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A journalist seeks to reenchant the prosaic world by uncovering the romantic element hidden in everyday life. At the age of 50, Ascher (Playing After Dark, 1986; The Habit of Loving, 1989) finds herself searching for meaning beyond the confines and rewards of her long marriage, her grown children, and her professional writing. Seeking “passionate connection” and experience, she undertakes an exploration of romance: “To enter it fearlessly and come back with whatever truth it had to reveal.” Ascher seeks the great gifts of romance in food, architecture, nature, literature, art, and music. She takes us with her in New York City andn abroad: on birding expeditions to Central Park, to the Prado, to the kitchens of Le Cirque 2000, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, to a master class with singer Barbara Cook, to a meeting with director Sydney Pollack, and to many other locations, searching everywhere for supposed romantics reclaiming a childlike wonder, passion, and connection. As subject matter goes, this is an interesting omnium-gatherum. But Dancing in the Dark goes wrong. First, sentimental romanticism always will be a subject that divides humanity—either you love it or it cloys. Ascher’s is a book that preaches to the converted, who will lap up her endless narratives of quirky passion, her constant citations of poems by Wallace Stevens and countless other literary figures, and her oozy prose. The other crowd will not put up with writing such as this description of a diamond meant to be worn between a woman’s breasts: “Tantalizing. Mesmerizing. The heart of romance. So near and yet so far . . . She loves me, she loves me not. Touch me, touch me not. Desire me, oh yes, desire.” Despite Ascher’s globe-trotting, her book is steeped in the world of New York and New Yorkers. Name-dropping of restaurants, stores, and cafÇs constricts its overall impact and works against the cosmopolitan “connectedness” that is supposed to underlie the book. Badly written, provincial, and sappy.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-017442-0
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999