What the book world’s critics and editors are reading

What the book world's critics and editors are reading

Becca Rothfeld, nonfiction critic

Sometimes I know exactly why I’m picking up a book – I’m reviewing it, I’m reviewing something related to it, it’s high on the never-ending list of books I know I should have read already, I saw an essay about it galvanized me to look it up – and sometimes I have absolutely no idea. So much of my literary life is project-oriented that I try to obey my more obscure urges when they boil up and nag at me. I don’t know why I chose to begin Andrew Holleran’s 1978 debut novel, “Dancer From the Dance,” last week, but it captivated me. A chronicle of gay life in New York in the 1970s, in the confused years before the AIDS onslaught, it is a book about a culture bewitched by beauty. Its two protagonists, the beloved Malone and the extravagantly glamorous Sutherland, dance their way through the drug ecstasies of the party circuit in search of transcendence. Holleran is funny and his characters are at once whole human and mythical outside, but above all he is a dazzling stylist. “Dancer From the Dance” embodies the beauty its characters seek with such single-minded and at times desperate fervor. Holleran’s prose is so delicious I wish I could reach out and touch it.

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