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Tracings : A Book of Partial Portraits

Horgan, Paul

3 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0374278598 / ISBN 13: 9780374278595
Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY, U.S.A., 1993
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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FINE/FINE unread copy protected by Archival Brodart cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000487

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Tracings : A Book of Partial Portraits

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 1993

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: First Edition.

About this title


In this fascinating book of portraits, Paul Horgan records his personal encounters with some of the outstanding artists of the century. For over fifty years - from the time when, as a teenage reporter in New Mexico, he met the doomed poet Vachel Lindsay, to the final illness of his friend Igor Stravinsky - Horgan not only crossed paths with the great and near-great, but his writer's eye enriched these moments with special grace and depth. Whether in comedy or the spirit of elegy, and with the lightest touch, Tracings brings together partial portraits of such legendary figures as opera stars Feodor Chaliapin, Mary Garden, and Marguerite D'Alvarez; actresses Minnie Maddern Fiske and Greta Garbo; painter Peter Hurd; writers Somerset Maugham, T. S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder, and Edmund Wilson. While researching his Pulitzer Prize biography, Lamy of Santa Fe, Horgan is granted an unheard-of privilege when the "100-year" rule governing the Vatican's archives is mysteriously waived for him. In Rome during wartime, he is also permitted to spend several hours in the Sistine Chapel entirely alone. This rich collection confirms the verdict of James K. Morris: "Paul Horgan is one of a handful of writers in America today who deserve the title of literary master."

From Kirkus Reviews:

Southwestern novelist/historian Horgan (A Certain Climate, 1988, etc.), twice a Pulitzer-winner, offers 17 slight but sprightly essays on his encounters with artistic illuminati. These pieces--many of which first appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Yale Review, etc.--cover five decades, beginning with Horgan's comic meeting, as a teenaged reporter in New Mexico, with the poet Vachel Lindsay, who fended off inquiries about the youngster's poetry by rambling on about The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Two essays uncharacteristically involve not artists but cultural artifacts: the Sistine Chapel (where Horgan found himself all alone in August 1945) and the Vatican Library (where he was allowed to break the institution's ``100- year-rule'' limiting access to archives). Horgan seems most fascinated by the theatricality that celebrities project even when offstage (even the one nonprofessional celebrity here, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, emerges as a deft comic and mimic). But the problem with many of the portraits--for instance, of Garbo, Thornton Wilder, Somerset Maugham, Fyodor Chaliapin, and Broadway actress Minnie Maddern Fiske--is that they're based on such slender acquaintance that character development is nonexistent. The compensating factor is Horgan's succinct descriptive power (on T.S. Eliot: ``His eyes were gray, powerfully taking, under lids slanting aside....The general effect was that of composed good looks at the service of sober good manners''). The best pieces concern figures with whom Horgan became most intimate: Edmund Wilson, wooed by the author into a stint as a visiting scholar at Wesleyan, where the critic memorably displayed his ``oddments and crochets''; and Igor Stravinsky, during his last frail days. Glancing, at times superficial, brushes with the famous, told with affection and charm. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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