Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Collum McCann's Dancer

Collum McCann's novel Dancer is one of those books which has sparked my interest in another subject. You know how you can sometimes read a book and be perfectly happy to remain in the world that the writer creates? It wasn't the case here and I have found myself several times in the last week, finding other sources of information on the subject online, in bookstores. The novel tells the story of the life and career of Rudolf Nureyev through various narrators who were close to him throughout his life. McCann writes with lyrical beauty and some passages are simply gorgeous, particularly passages about dance itself, about St-Petersburg, about the protagonist and his larger-than-life personality.

The hitch with books of this form is a niggling one that I can't get away from as I read: the constant question of what is made up, what is based in fact, and whether that's even important. After all, a life story is not a life. I can see that McCann must have done an enormous amount of research because the story is definitely grounded in facts which span Nureyev's life. The people are real. The experiences reflect the arc of the dancer's career. It's much more like a novel, of course, with invented scenes, dialogue, thoughts and feelings. But McCann doesn't change names, re-imagines real stories from Nureyev's life to move his plot along. In that sense, it's like a biography.

I find the book so interesting that I stayed up late watching a Youtube video about Nureyev's life, his Russian years, and this only piqued my interest more in this enigmatic indvidual. Though his life ended tragically, we should all be so lucky to be able to do what we want in our lives, to focus all our energies to one consuming, passionate goal and then reap its rewards.

It's the first book I've read by McCann but it definitely makes me want to read more of his work.

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