Dancer from the Dance
By: Andrew Holleran
Paige’s Rating: (5) of 5
Recommended for: Fiction Readers
It depicts the adventures of Malone, a beautiful young man searching for love amid New York’s emerging gay scene. From Manhattan’s Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island’s deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen — and one of the most memorable literary creations of contemporary fiction.
Wow and wow! I must admit that at first I was a bit apprehensive to read a novel about gay culture simply because my gay friend himself said, “Are you sure you want to read it?” “Why not?” was my reply and I am very glad that I did.
Dancer is a brilliantly written book! The plot itself is engaging as it follows the lives of two very different gay men living in New York in the late 60s and early 70s. Both are looking for something that seems to be beyond their grasp. The plot moves forward effortlessly as it describes the lives of these men without being repetitive or without being overtly crass. Throughout the book there are scenes of group orgies and lot of drug consumption, but presented in such a blasé way that I personally never felt uncomfortable. The plot ends in tragedy, but the reader knowing from the beginning of the book about this, is able to appreciate the plot more as it unfolds, making the end of the book a lot less shocking so that it may be simply heartbreaking.
The author is also incredibly skilled with words. Both the appearances and personalities of the two main characters are so beautifully and vividly described. Holleran is able to paint to portray Malone as an incredibly handsome man simply because of his humility and never-ending drive to find real love in a loveless world. Sutherland is eccentric, loud, wild and a great balance to Malone’s more rational tendencies. While both characters are starkly different from each other, they play off each other very well and their friendship seems to be one that is necessary for their own survival.
New York is also described with this mysterious air, as the neighborhoods that these men live in are not wealthy. But the sounds, the sights and the energy of New York and outer boroughs are so well written that even someone who has never experienced New York can easily feel at home in the novel.
This book was so well done that I felt as if it were written by three of my favorite authors. The characters themselves reminded me a lot about the multi-dimensional characters that Salinger would conjure up but set in a New York society that Fitzgerald would have described. The plot at times is melancholy and at other times shocking but in general it reminded me a bit of Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange where it is overall fascinating.
The mixture of the well-developed characters set in a magical New York with a scandalous plot makes this one of the best books I have read in the last year.