Friday, April 06, 2012

Books on the Brain, part 3

Fiction
The Master's Muse
by Varley O'Connor


From the publisher: “We set our sights on each other almost from the beginning.”

So begins The Masters Muse, an exquisite, deeply affecting novel about the true love affair between two artistic legends: George Balanchine, the Russian émigré to America who is widely considered the Shakespeare of dance, and his wife and muse, Tanaquil Le Clercq.

Copenhagen, 1956: Tanaquil Le Clercq, known as Tanny, is a gorgeous, talented, and spirited young ballerina whose dreams are coming true. She is married to the love of her life, George Balanchine; the famous mercurial director of New York City Ballet. She dances the best roles in his newest creations, has been featured in fashion magazines and television dramas, socializes with the countrys most renowned artists and intellectuals, and has become a star around the world. But one fateful evening, only hours after performing, Tanny falls suddenly and gravely ill; she awakens from a feverous sleep to find that she can no longer move her legs.

Tanny is diagnosed with polio and Balanchine quits the ballet to devote himself to caring for his wife. He crafts exercises to help her regain her strength, deepening their partnership and love for each other. But in the ensuing years, after Tanny discovers she will never walk again, their relationship is challenged as she endeavors to create a new identity for herself and George returns to the company, choreographing ballets inspired by the ever-younger, more beautiful and talented dancers. Their marriage is put to the ultimate test as Tanny battles to redefine her dreams and George throws himself into his art.

The Masters Muse is an evocative imagining of the deep yet complicated love between a smart, beautiful woman and her charismatic, ambitious husband; it is the story of an extraordinary collaboration in art and in life.

Why it caught my eye: Um, hello. Drama and ballet. Does that not say it all?

Non-Fiction
How to Love an American Man: A True Story
by Kristine Gasbarre


From the publisher: An endearing and unforgettable memoir of love, self-discovery, and enduring, old-fashioned values.

Kristine Gasbarre made a New York career of dating driven, inaccessible men. When she realizes her love life will never result in happiness if she continues on the same path, she makes a big decision—relocating to Italy to discover her roots and find out what defines her adoring grandpa. But upon receiving the news of his sudden passing, she is lured away.

With nowhere left to go, Krissy returns to her small hometown for the first time in a decade to help care for her grandmother—a refined, private matriarch suffering from early dementia along with the loss of her husband. In her reluctant agreement to share the nearly lost love stories and transformative lessons from her rich sixty-year marriage, Krissy’s grandma becomes the one offering comfort as she coaches her granddaughter through the fear of loving. Grandma’s unapologetic femininity and secret giving spirit opens Krissy’s eyes about relationships, teaching her the single most important requisite for loving a man: first a woman has to learn the power of her own inner beauty.

Why it caught my eye: This book has been on my 'brary's new book display for a while now, and I just keep going back to it. I pick it up. I put it down. I pick it up. My hunch is that this book will either be really, really good or really, really bad and sappy and otherwise lame. I read a review that compared it to Eat, Pray, Love -- a book that I strongly disliked and am glad that I read. I'm going to give this book a try at some point. If I don't like it, I'll probably still finish it. And if it turns out that it isn't enjoyable but has some sort of magical message that changes my entire outlook on life? Stellar. Not counting on it, but stellar nonetheless.

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