STEPS

From public relations executive Vaccarino (PR For People, 2009) comes a cross between primer and personal memoir on brand-building and business acumen, built on the artistic principles and practice of ballet.

Self-described as “[m]y not-so-secret life as an adult dancer and how it impacts my life and business,” Vaccarino’s book is a gentle, lyrical pas de deux between author and reader, with specific “steps” such as “Positioning,” “Balance” and “Fall and Recovery” as chapter headings and core principles. Vaccarino slips between childhood memories of her grandmother’s stairs in Yonkers, N.Y., where she took her first steps and gained a child’s insight into discipline and achievement, and her adult world of ballet and business. Her earliest memories are of a passion for dancing; “As a toddler, I danced so enthusiastically, my parents did not want to take me out in public,” and later on, “I danced to the sheer musicality in my own head.” Glimpses of her life’s journey, family secrets and sadness, marriage and motherhood are hung on a trajectory of drawing ever closer to dance and a daily commitment to its pursuit. Throughout the work, tenets of personal ascent (“Our greatest moments of courage are found when we choose to rise higher”) are interspersed with tiny jewels of wisdom, but the connections with and transitions to business and branding are few and far between. Vaccarino’s voice is clear and impassioned on the struggles and rewards of ballet’s principles and discipline, but the application to real-world brand and business skill is slightly out-of-step. Filled with juicy quotes from well-known experts ranging from dance mavens to Willa Cather and Peter Drucker, this book is one woman’s discovery of self-empowerment through dance, heavily weighted toward dance rather than business and with a strong undercurrent of spirituality: “The practice of ballet makes me feel as though I am reaching for an ideal that is close to God.” A sweet meal of practical basics in moving toward consistency and accomplishment at the barre of life, though the connection to business could be more fully established.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1936672219

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Cedar Forge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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