978-1-883642-63-1 / 9781883642631

Slow Emergencies (American)


Publisher:Steerforth Press



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About the book:

The protagonist of Slow Emergencies lives in a sleepy New England college town, choreographing dances in her attic studio. She shares a comfortable house and a cozy life with her philosophy professor husband and two small daughters. But none of this quite satisfies Lin, who is consumed by her work. So when an irresistible offer comes--a dance company in Mexico City wants her to be its director--she leaves husband and children behind and becomes a traveling artist. Alas, just as her old life was haunted by the specter of an unfulfilled career, her new life is haunted by the specter of her children: "In the Mexico City subway, and in the streets--everywhere but in the dance--Lin is vulnerable to attack by babies. The second she hears a baby crying, panic seizes her."

Nancy Huston's writing comes alive when she's describing Lin's home life. The children, especially, are delicately observed. But although the author wants us to feel her heroine's overpowering need to dance, her writing on the subject is vague and pretentious, never letting us into the details of Lin's artistic process. In rehearsal, she and her partner are "welded together by the throbbing air." The dances themselves sound pretty awful: "It is about stone and sculpture, about failure leading to rage, then madness and finally to imprisonment." The kids, on the other hand, sound pretty terrific (one daughter insists that her mother is "as beautiful as Italy"). At such moments, it's difficult not to wonder whether Lin has put her eggs in the wrong basket. Still, in these postfeminist times, it's a daring choice to write with tenderness about a woman who abandons her babies for her art. --Claire Dederer

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