Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An artsy middlebrow novel

Like The Weird Sisters, which I read over Holy Week two years ago, Meg Howrey's The Cranes Dance felt like it was trying too hard to be artsy and literary. I'm glad it did, I suppose, because if it didn't I wouldn't like it: it'd just be a middlebrow novel about family relationships without even any magic to make things interesting. A beach read (although I say that loosely because I don't think I've ever actually brought a book to the beach). On the other hand, I can sense The Cranes Dance trying so hard. It's not a perfect novel, but like The Weird Sisters, I couldn't put it down, and I genuinely enjoyed it, especially the Shakespeare bits. So it does rank a bold entry in my list of books for the year, and might make it onto my favorites list.

In The Cranes Dance, Kate Crane struggles to finish out a season of dance with a prominent New York City ballet company after her sister Gwen - younger, but more talented, and of higher position in the company - has a psychotic break and returns home. While dealing with a breakup, a neck injury and subsequent drug abuse, and a preteen dancer who idolizes her, Kate tries to understand her codependent relationship with Gwen as she is assigned Gwen's role of Titania, the lead in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

What I liked most about the novel was Kate's voice, which was often extraordinarily funny even as she muses on the tragedy and suffering of life. Her acerbic and often litotic (is that a word? using the literary technique of litotes, deliberate and ironic understatement) descriptions of ballet culture, daily routine, and show plots felt just like we academics griping about the nagging details of our own chosen profession. So while I know very little about ballet - I was a baby doll in a Nutcracker when I was very small, but that was it - Kate's voice still felt very familiar in her summaries and complaints.

No comments:

Post a Comment