Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age

Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age

eBook - 2011
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An elderly rake and womanizer tells his life's story to a group of sunbathing women who remind him of past lovers. Entire story is written in one long sentence.
Publisher: New York : New York Review Books, 2011.
ISBN: 9781590175569
1590175565
Characteristics: 1 online resource.
Additional Contributors: Heim, Michael Henry
Summary: An elderly rake and womanizer tells his life's story to a group of sunbathing women who remind him of past lovers. Entire story is written in one long sentence.

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DWIGHT A GREEN
Mar 11, 2016

I have enjoyed the works of Bohumil Hrabal to date and that streak continues with Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age. An 117-page sentence from an old shoemaker/brewmaster to some young ladies (he directly addresses them over a dozen times), the book wanders through many topics but often centers on his experiences. Not that he’s always nice to the young ladies, telling one that she’ll need falsies if she wants to be in a play with him while at the same time he tells her friend that she’ll do for a role even if she isn’t beautiful. Jirka paints himself as the hero of many vignettes while extolling his memory, yet he can’t get Jesus’ miracle at the Cana wedding correct—was the mistake meant as irony or to cast doubt on Jirka’s stories? Like many of his tales, the ambiguity makes his talk engaging. His rambling sometimes follows a related stream of consciousness, other times there is no relationship between topics.

There are several topics Jirka returns to over and over, such as Batista’s book on safeguarding marital bliss and sexual hygiene. Bondy the poet, pushing his two kids in a baby buggy, makes several appearances in his conversation, as does Anna Nováková’s book of interpreting dreams. Jirka regales the ladies with his love life, although he ends most anecdotes with him turning down offers so he will remain chaste or at least keep his freedom. The question lingers, though, with just what is Jirka trying to accomplish with the young ladies? He’s already confessed “I can’t resist the charms of a beautiful woman”. At the same time he believes advice given in Batista's book: “Mr. Batista’s book says a twenty-year-old beauty gives any healthy young man a charge though she’s no more use to an old man than an overcoat is to a corpse”.

Other topics get many mentions—Jirka seems to be quite the connoisseur of great art and popular culture. Like most garrulous narrators, what he reveals between the words and what he leaves out of his tales proves to be as important as what he recounts. At times his stories take a dark turn or have somber details. Even in these instances, Jirka's liveliness buoys his talk.

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