IN THE WAKE OF DIAGHILEV by Richard Buckle

IN THE WAKE OF DIAGHILEV

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first volume (1981) of Buckle's autobiography, The Most Upsetting Woman (the title refers to his grandmother), was published only in Britain. So US readers may occasionally feel slightly at sea in this sequel, especially when Buckle is making references to his family or (in rather coyly casual terms) to his homosexuality. Otherwise, however, the pleasures here are abundantly accessible--as the author of Nijinsky and Diaghilev chattily, ironically chronicles his doting friendships and edgy professional encounters with the greats of 20th-century ballet. Infatuated by the dance as a 1930s teenager, Buckle began his own little ballet magazine in 1939, went to war (covered in Vol. I), and returned to Ballet--which brought him into contact with a parade of celebrities: Lincoln Kirstein, who disapproved of RB's lifestyle (""I was flabbier, boozier, lazier than he expected""); the legendary Alexandre Benois, ""the ideal fairy godfather""; Marie Rambert; and three former Diaghilev stars--Karsavina, Lopoukhova, and Sokolova. (""Aristocrat, bohemian, and old trouper,"" respectively, with Sokolova engaging Buckle to coauthor her memoirs.) Then, in 1954, Buckle was hired to arrange a grand anniversary Diaghilev Exhibition at the Edinburgh Festival; and, ""determined to collect every single surviving Diaghilev design in the world,"" he took off on assorted wild goose chases through Europe, including a comic, fruitless runaround with Cocteau and Picasso. The show was a lavish hit, however--with elaborate last-minute decor (""Which rooms could we afford to carpet? Could women sew standing on ladders?""), endless speeches from Serge Lifar, and a London version complete with fisticuffs at the opening and a visit from Princess Margaret (who seemed ""as if she were inspecting a homosexual brothel""). And later years brought a series of overlapping projects: research for Nijinsky, attempting to reconcile violently contradictory testimony from Stravinsky and others; periodic involvements with a half-dozen doomed Nijinsky-movie projects; tedious newspaper work (""I should have been a better critic had I not been drunk most of the time""); and a tour of Australia with Nureyev--who, when rebuked, ""flung a plate of delicious food at my head. . . ."" Austere readers may find all this a trifle too campy. And, though last seen mid-heart-attack in 1979, Buckle never reveals enough of himself for empathic involvement. But the eccentric cast is stellar, the style is (at its best) Noel-Cowardly, and it's educational too--with ballet-history neatly explained in breezy, anecdotal asides.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1983
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston