I’ve had the whole weekend to get used to looking at All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine. I’m still not used to it yet.
When you first get your hands on a copy of your newest book, the initial rush of excitement quickly gives way to anxiety. Is everything right? Strange and inexplicable things can go wrong with a book between the time you sign off on the second-pass proofs and the time it rolls off the presses. It’s been said that the very first thing an author invariably sees when he opens his latest book is a typographical error. In my case, this has yet to happen, but something did go wrong with the first printing of The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, a comparatively small production glitch that nobody noticed but the managing editor and me, and though it was insignificant, it took me an hour or so to get over the shock. So I flipped quickly through All in the Dances to see if anything similar had happened, and once I established that the first printing was gremlin-free, I relaxed and reveled.
I’ve shown All in the Dances to everyone I’ve seen since it arrived via messenger last Friday afternoon, and their reactions have been identical to mine. It’s a beautiful piece of work, perfectly designed, invitingly small and slender, with dust-jacket photos that make you want to sit down, open it up, and start reading at once. Alas, I haven’t been able to oblige anybody yet, but Harcourt assures me that a box of author copies is headed my way.
Which reminds me: I dedicated All in the Dances to the thirty people I’ve taken to see their first Balanchine ballets in the seventeen years since I saw my first Balanchine ballet. One of them, Nancy LaMott, whom I took to A Midsummer Night’s Dream not long after we met, is no longer with us, but the others (including Our Girl in Chicago, who is making her second appearance to date on the dedication page of one of my books) are all alive, well, and in for a little surprise come November 1. Alas, it’s a double-edged surprise, for they’re going to have to buy their own copies. I know that’s kind of crass, but there’s nothing I can do about it: I only get twenty free copies, and I can’t very well give them away to some dedicatees and not others! I’m hoping that the thrill of seeing their names on the dedication page will make up for having to purchase a copy (which the proud author will happily sign, of course). And yes, I live in fear that I inadvertently left somebody out….
I should mention that Harcourt is already starting to arrange promotional appearances for All in the Dances. If you live in or near New York City, pencil me in for November 16, when I’ll be speaking at the Barnes & Noble on Union Square at 7:30 (the address is 33 E. 17th St.). I’m appearing jointly with Bob Gottlieb, whose Balanchine book
comes out the same week as mine, and Robert Greskovic, dance critic of The Wall Street Journal, will serve as moderator-interlocutor-referee. Do come–I think it’ll be fun.
Now I really have to get down to work. I wrote a 4,000-word essay for Commentary about Johnny Mercer over the weekend, and I have four more pieces due between now and Friday morning, when I fly to Chicago to visit Our Girl and see three plays and an opera. Blogging is likely to be sporadic as a result, though I don’t plan to vanish altogether–there’s too much stuff on my mind.
For the moment, though, I must attend to my drama column for this Friday’s Journal, so I’ll see you all later.