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A somewhat sanitized portrait; Duncan might have preferred something bolder.

Cartoonist Jones takes an admiring glance at the truncated life and roller-coaster times of the woman who traversed three continents to revolutionize dance.

Denounced as everything from a “wild voluptuary” to a “jumping Jezebel,” Isadora Duncan (1877–1927) famously remarked, “People do not live nowadays. They get about 10 percent out of life.” Every page of this admiring graphic biography reminds readers that the American dance pioneer herself always got 100 percent. The thin volume depicts a number of turbulent scenes from Duncan’s personal and professional experiences, underscoring the frenetic exuberance with which she conducted her many affairs. With bold strokes and supple lettering, Jones’s pen-and-ink drawings attempt to animate Duncan’s boundary-smashing style, onstage and off: as the barefoot, tunic-clad artist whose free-flowing movements transformed classical dance, and as the convention-defying single mother of two and very public lover of famous figures and political causes. “With this book, I’m asking a generation in flip-flops to imagine how traffic stopped when Isadora strolled down 5th Avenue in her homemade sandals,” writes Jones. It’s difficult to extract the truth about Duncan’s life, the author acknowledges, from the diverse, often contradictory accounts supplied in the dancer’s writings, reminiscences by her contemporaries and biographies with various agendas. Jones’s portrait depicts a gifted artist driven by a passion to realize at whatever cost her feminist vision of the dancer of the future: “woman in her purest expression, body and soul in harmony, emerging from centuries of civilized forgetfulness, no longer at war with spirituality—the highest intelligence in the freest body.” Interestingly, although Jones espouses Duncan’s unabashed belief that “to expose is art, to conceal is vulgar,” and doesn’t shy away from depicting the great tragedies of her subject’s life, she tends to suggest rather than explicitly spell out the dancer’s more controversial actions: dalliances with women, numerous suicide attempts, proclivity for public drunkenness.

A somewhat sanitized portrait; Duncan might have preferred something bolder.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9497-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2008

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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