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Friday, April 29, 2016

Critic Sarah Kaufman at the American Women Writers National Museum


Sarah Kaufman at the American Women Writers National Museum at the National Press Club/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Last month the Pulitzer Prize winning dance critic Sarah Kaufman was the featured speaker at a luncheon meeting of the American Women Writers National Museum at the National Press Club, and she talked mostly about her new book The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life which is about saving grace or getting it, or something.

The cover is rather non-descript, not an eye-catcher that makes you stop at the book table to take a second look amidst the competitors vying for attention, and the title is rather lame, too, to match the cover, and I am sorry, Sarah, but the contents ("grace," huh?) are not something to whet a reading appetite, unless a reader needs sleeping aids (which likely means I need lots of it. Grace, that is, not sleeping pills.)


When we see "Grace" on the cover of a book jacket, Sarah, we expect something titillating about Grace Kelly. It doesn't even have to be something new. How high has anything about "grace" ever climbed on the charts?  (But, like all the other celebrity writers, Sarah, I am sure you didn't write this for the money.)

Sarah, do you honestly think the current crop of millennials is interested in holding open doors? (Just ask Metro.)

(Update after a friend's email: I suppose I came to the meeting not to hear about another book (of which I barely knew she had one), but to perhaps glean some insight and information on ways I can become a better writer which, I dare say, explained the attendance of most, if not all, who were there.

Anything unrelated to Grace was only extracted from Ms. Kaufman in Q and A. 

And blurbs, blurbs, blurbs, blah, blah, blah.  So many on so many books.  What do they matter?  

Do you honestly think another staff member from the Post or Huffington Post is going to say anything negative about a colleague's pride and joy?  Come now.  You scratch my book and I'll scratch yours.)

Ms. Kaufman has been the dance critic at the Washington Post since 1996, and won the Pulitzer in 2010, only the second dance critic to win the major prize, and "neither of us is from New York," she said, almost proudly. And New York is a city where she has never lived and seldom visits. (Take that, New York and Big Apple-loving Hirshhorn director.  Why don't you go back where you came from? And take Peter Marks (hasn't won the Pulitzer) with you and maybe Philip Kennicott (won the Pulitzer) since all they seem to write about are the arts in New York.  We got plenty of arts in D.C.)

Married and the mother of three, Ms. Kaufman still looks like a ballerina, but with years of training, she said she has never danced professionally.

Answering a question from a guest about her reading choices, she said that growing up with brothers put her in touch with the Hardy Boys, whose every title she has read. (Nancy Drews, no, never; you hear that Justice Sotomayor?) Ms. Kaufman admires the style of Katherine Anne Porter (won the Pulitzer) "so perceptive" who "really had a sense of the artificiality and hypocrisy of what was going on in that era."

Ms. Kaufman said she had just read (hasn't won the Pulitzer) Jonathan Franzen's Purity and liked it, but devoured (won the Pulitzer) Donna Tartt's Goldfinch: "That thing just flew" (760 pages).

"Belt-tightening" began at the Post about five years ago, and the paper is "tapering down on reviews" since they don't produce the online traffic the newspaper desires, she said.

Ms. Kaufman said she will be writing more "thinking pieces" and advance notices, and invited all there to send her ideas.

"Artists here [in Washington] are getting richer," Ms. Kaufman said, but still, whether it's ballet, modern or jazz, "live form of dance is really having a struggle. The key is young people. The Golden Goose of every dance company" is figuring "how to get young people" in the doors, and the hell with the old for after we are gone, the halls (and printed newspapers) will be no more (Editor's note).

The American Women Writers National Museum was founded by attorney Janice Law and is celebrating its fourth anniversary. It is "a Museum in Washington, D.C. for American Women Authors, Playwrights, Poets, Screenwriters, Journalists."
 

patricialesli@gmail.com

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