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Acocella, Joan. TWENTY-EIGHT ARTISTS AND TWO SAINTS: ESSAYS. New York City, NY: Pantheon Books, 2007. Hardcover. First Edition/First Printing. 524 pages. As New/As New.

Retrospective collection of essays. Now considered a contemporary classic. The First Hardcover Edition. Precedes and should not be confused with all other subsequent editions. The title is an allusion/tribute to Virgil Thomson's great opera, "Four Saints in Three Acts", one of the greatest achievements by an American classical music composer. Presents thirty-one full-length essays by the resident dance critic and essayist/contributor of The New Yorker Magazine in one fulfilling volume. By now, it should be obvious that Acocella is the finest living dance critic since Arlene Croce retired and Edwin Denby died. She will probably be regarded as the third member of just such a triumvirate (which will not be surpassed). What sets her apart from her great predecessors is that Joan Acocella has also written about literature, the visual arts, and as the title suggests, even iconic religious figures. "Acocella's deep knowledge of dance infuses her fleet-footed and witty prose. Like a dancer, she makes her art look easy, which it certainly is not, and what poise and range she evinces. Accompanied by superb photographs of the artists, Acocella's portraits bring into focus such complex figures as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Martha Graham, Bob Fosse, Marguerite Yourcenar, Dorothy Parker, Philip Roth, M. F. K. Fisher, and Susan Sontag as well as Mary Magdalene and Joan of Arc. So much fun to read, they feel like indulgences rather than writings that do no less than enrich and sustain culture" (Donna Seaman). In her essay on the tough-minded yet at the same time, surprisingly vulnerable Sontag, Acocella writes that an essential function of criticism is "that of introducing readers to strange work, things they wouldn't ordinarily encounter". Loyal readers of The New Yorker Magazine can quote many of Acocella's one-liners from memory, and here is just one of them: "The less she knows, the more she tells us" (on the Stanford scholar Carol Shloss and her dreary feminist biography of Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter, who aspired to be a great dancer). Still, it is her passion for what she likes, loves, admires, worships, and reveres about her chosen subjects (rather than those she rightly despises) that the collection is largely about and makes it treasurable. Two of Joan Acocella's previous books are the best of their kind: A book-length account on Willa Cather and the first biography on Mark Morris. Here is her debut collection of essays, a great critic's inexhaustible and indispensable writings on the experience called ecstasy, which Vladimir Nabokov once described as the aim of all art. A "must-have" title for Joan Acocella collectors. This copy is very prominently and beautifully signed in black fountain pen on the title page by Joan Acocella. This title has been a surprising success, remains available in multiple subsequent printings, and is now collectible. This is the only signed copy of the First Hardcover Edition available online and has no flaws, a pristine beauty. Most copies available online are subsequent printings. A rare signed copy thus. One of the greatest living American writers. A flawless collectible copy. (SEE ALSO OTHER JOAN ACOCELLA TITLES IN OUR CATALOG). ISBN 0375424164. $150.00

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