#12 – Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints by Joan Acocella

If I could magically trade places with anybody and try out their career for a day, I might choose Joan Acocella. She gets to review dance and books for The New Yorker. What could possibly be more fun?

Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints is a collection of Acocella’s essay profiles of creative people. (As you may have guessed from the title, 28 of them are artists and two are saints — Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene). Resisting cliches about art and suffering, she considers the lives of artists and asks thoughtful questions about the relationship between art and life.

I loved the profiles of Baryshnikov, Martha Graham, and other dancers. I discovered a writer, new to me, whose work I enjoy — Penelope Fitzgerald. I also loved her essay on the history of writer’s block in which she considers famous cases — Ralph Ellison, Coleridge — and asks why and how it happens.

“Possibly, some writers become blocked simply because the concept exists, and invoking it is easier for them than writing,” she says.

I may have skipped a few essays. But I would recommend this book to anybody interested in how creativity works.

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