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Dancing with a Star

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A new bio spotlights the (complicated) life of Rudolf Nureyev. Plus ReadOut shorts.

Dancing
Dancing together wasn’t the only thing that Rudolf Nureyev (r) and Erik Bruhn did with each other.

If the “difficult artiste” is a cliché, Julie Kavanagh’s Nureyev: The Life (Pantheon Books) suggests Rudolf Nureyev created, broke, and then remade that mold in his own image.

Quoted reviews make one think his career was built almost on stage presence alone—and yet it’s clear that his innate talent drew to him ballet’s best teachers and dancers. He was arrogant about his artistry and star status—and constantly lamented his lack of technique. He pursued his career with a cut-and-burn approach, using and discarding people as needed—and he agonized over what his defection to the West cost his family and friends back in Russia.
“Complicated” seems too subtle a word for the portrait Kavanagh paints.

It is also a fascinating portrait. Kavanagh’s exhaustive research gives us not only the glamour (appearances by the likes of Jackie Onassis, Martha Graham, Mikhail Baryshnikov), but also personal stories from obscure figures. Readers who know ballet will receive insight from the technical terms explaining Nureyev’s weaknesses and strengths. Those looking for tabloid dish will be enthralled: Kavanagh does not shy away from Nureyev’s sexual adventures (besides his famous love affairs with Erik Bruhn and Wallace Potts, there were endless anonymous encounters around the world).

NureyevOf course, the last chapters are harrowing, as we are given a stark reminder of that first decade with AIDS. Nureyev’s refusal to quit dancing is painful and poignant, as is the devotion of his much-abused friends.

In the end, this is no hagiography, but a page-turning look at an artist of deep, conflicting passions and charisma to spare. This is a book not only for ballet fans, but for anyone intrigued by complex personalities.
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READOUT SHORTS

A Little Fruitcake: A Childhood in Holidays
David Valdes Greenwood
Da Capo Lifelong Books (www.dacapopress.com)
FruitcakeMemories of family holidays define where we came from in a very real way. In A Little Fruitcake, Greenwood shares the Christmas experiences of a gay Cuban boy growing up in rural Maine. Witty and full of characters we all recognize, this charming story is sure to become a gay Christmas classic. — Review: Angel Curtis

Pierre & Gilles: Double Je, 1976-2007
Paul Ardenne, Jeff Koons, Gilles Blanchard, Pierre Commoy
Taschen (www.taschen.com)
The rather amazing photographic art of Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard, more widely known as Pierre et Gilles, was celebrated in Paris recently with a retrospective of the French gay duo’s work of the past 30 years. You can find all of it, and much, much more, in Pierre & Gilles: Double Je, 1976-2007, from Taschen publishers, of course. The photographs are highly stylized, phantasmagorical, and, well, dreamy. See for yourself. — Review: Jack Varsi

Biting the Apple

Lucy Jane Bledsoe
Carroll & Graf (www.carrollandgraf.com)
AppleEve is a kleptomaniac selling grace and is obsessed with a poet in Maine. Nick is Eve’s ex-coach and ex-husband and has spent his adulthood running Eve’s life. Joan was Eve’s first lesbian lover, and is now a high-powered reporter stalking Eve for a story. Alissa is an image consultant, sure she can remake Eve into the woman she needs to be. Biting the Apple deftly shows that the price we pay for obsession is the loss of our truest selves. — Review: A.C.Longhorns
Victor J. Banis

Carroll & Graf (www.carrollandgraf.com)
Victor J. Baines is the granddaddy of gay pulp fiction. Writing as Victor Jay, J.X. Williams, Don Holliday, Lynn Benedict, and Jan Alexander, Baines brought us such pulp classics as C.A.M.P., which infused the whole James Bond thing with a very gay sensibility. In Longhorns, Baines gives us a gay pulp version of the cowboy. Full of hot sex among the mesquite, this is what some people really wish Brokeback Mountain had been. — Review: A.C.

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