Dancing in the Dark

In this searing novel, Caryl Phillips reimagines the life of the first black entertainer in the U.S to reach the highest levels of fame and fortune.After years of struggling for success on the stage, Bert Williams 1874 1922 , the child of recent immigrants from the Bahamas, made the radical decision to don blackface makeup and play the coon Behind this mask he becameIn this searing novel, Caryl Phillips reimagines the life of the first black entertainer in the U.S to reach the highest levels of fame and fortune.After years of struggling for success on the stage, Bert Williams 1874 1922 , the child of recent immigrants from the Bahamas, made the radical decision to don blackface makeup and play the coon Behind this mask he became a Broadway headliner as influential a comedian as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and W C Fields, who called him the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew It is this dichotomy at Williams core that Phillips explores in this richly nuanced, brilliantly written novel, unblinking in its attention to the sinister compromises that make up an identity.
Dancing in the Dark In this searing novel Caryl Phillips reimagines the life of the first black entertainer in the U S to reach the highest levels of fame and fortune After years of struggling for success on the stage

  • Title: Dancing in the Dark
  • Author: Caryl Phillips
  • ISBN: 9781400079834
  • Page: 309
  • Format: Paperback
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    About the Author

    Caryl Phillips

    Caryl Phillips was born in St.Kitts and came to Britain at the age of four months He grew up in Leeds, and studied English Literature at Oxford University.He began writing for the theatre and his plays include Strange Fruit 1980 , Where There is Darkness 1982 and The Shelter 1983 He won the BBC Giles Cooper Award for Best Radio Play of the year with The Wasted Years 1984 He has written many dramas and documentaries for radio and television, including, in 1996, the three hour film of his own novel The Final Passage He wrote the screenplay for the film Playing Away 1986 and his screenplay for the Merchant Ivory adaptation of V.S.Naipaul s The Mystic Masseur 2001 won the Silver Ombu for best screenplay at the Mar Del Plata film festival in Argentina.His novels are The Final Passage 1985 , A State of Independence 1986 , Higher Ground 1989 , Cambridge 1991 , Crossing the River 1993 , The Nature of Blood 1997 , A Distant Shore 2003 , Dancing in the Dark 2005 , Foreigners 2007 , and In the Falling Snow 2009 His non fiction The European Tribe 1987 , The Atlantic Sound 2000 , A New World Order 2001 , and Colour Me English 2011 He is the editor of two anthologies Extravagant Strangers A Literature of Belonging 1997 and The Right Set An Anthology of Writing on Tennis 1999 His work has been translated into over a dozen languages.He was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 1992 and was on the 1993 Granta list of Best of Young British Writers His literary awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a British Council Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and Britain s oldest literary award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, for Crossing the River which was also shortlisted for the 1993 Booker Prize A Distant Shore was longlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize, and won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize Dancing in the Dark won the 2006 PEN Beyond the Margins Award He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of the Arts, and recipient of the 2013 Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Award for Excellence.He has taught at universities in Ghana, Sweden, Singapore, Barbados, India, and the United States, and in 1999 was the University of the West Indies Humanities Scholar of the Year In 2002 3 he was a Fellow at the Centre for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library Formerly Henry R Luce Professor of Migration and Social Order at Columbia University, he is presently Professor of English at Yale University He is an Honorary Fellow of The Queen s College, Oxford University.A regular contributor to The Guardian and The New Republic, his latest book, Colour Me English Selected Essays, was published in July 2011 and a new release, The Lost Child A Novel, was published March 2015.

    382 Comment

    • Nat said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      Struggled with the writing style so muchwith all the chopping and changing of perspectives, I loss sight of much of the plot, which is a shame as the language used was really captivating and one of the main reasons I continued till the end

    • Jay said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      I feel bad giving this book such a low rating when it appears so many others enjoyed it. It was the writing style that brought it down for me. The sudden changes in perspective, third person omnipresent, first person, third person limited, and then 'newspaper' articles, and wow, it just ended up doing my head in.I can't help but wonder how much was real, and how much is Phillips' imagination coming into play. I think if this book was written in a much more linear form, and the perspective wasn't [...]

    • Marcos said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      I'm really behind in reading the novels of this wonderful, prolific writer! What an amazing, bitter and sadly shifting novel of voices, thoughts and alienation about a world where entertaining becomes a means of degrading oneselves to insanity.

    • Agnes said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      actually started enjoy the reading from the second part on. Not a bad book, though But definitely not the kind of book I would read to relax and have a good time. Too difficult to change so many points of view and understand each time who's talking and about what. 2 out of 5 is fair for me, but I think the writer would be able to do so much better and besides, issues confronted in the book are totally valid, but a preparation reading or collecting information about the age and place where the no [...]

    • AFAMAST said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      "She knows a colored woman cannot expect too much out of this life" p.53 This quote captures society's view of women. Being a woman and colored was enough for society to require Ada to expect little out of life. Women of all races are put down and demeaned because of factors they cannot control like their race and gender. When they dare to expect more like Ada does, they are policed by religion, the government and social forums.Thelma Amoah

    • Andrew Smith said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      I heard Caryl Phillips, author of ‘Dancing in the Dark,’ at Toronto’s International Festival of Authors some years ago. I was impressed with Phillips, who was born in St. Kitts, West Indies and brought up in Britain. I was interested in what he had to say about his background and very much enjoyed his reading. Also, I’m writing a Caribbean black character as part of the new novel I’m working on — and it’s Black History Month at the moment — so the time was definitely ripe to read [...]

    • Marie said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      Saint Kitts and Nevis"The balance has gone.""He once more closes his eyes and urges his mind to hurry back in the direction of the Caribbean.""In this new place they are now encouraged to see themselves as inferior.""It is true, journeys don't always leave footprints.""I truly lost sight of myself many years ago.""Do you really understand what they want from us in this American world? We are being held hostage as performers, and those who imagine that they are engaged in something other than ent [...]

    • Graceann said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      This book was so well-received, certainly among my fellow GoodReaders, that I feel somewhat out of step in my disappointment. I love Bert Williams, I love historical fiction, and I didn't care for this. In this novelization of the life of Bert Williams, Phillips concentrates on guilt that Phillips places on Williams' shoulders for playing the "coon" for white audiences in the vaudeville era. If Williams felt guilt, he certainly wasn't alone because he caught heat from black contemporaries for de [...]

    • Toni said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      What a sad, sad book. Melancoly. OH MY! It was a fictionized (is there such a word?) story about one of the very first black performers in the early 1900's. It actually was a two team comedy, singing and dancing act one of which sported black face (if you remember Al Jolson - even tho he was white Bert, in the book, also sported that type of black face with the exaggerated lips). The author weaved a story of sadness that plagued the performers b/c although their life was in the performance, the [...]

    • David said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      It's strange to read the Wiki entry for Bert Williams after the book, since the Wiki entry employs a defensive, even celebratory tone to describe Williams's career, whereas Dancing in the Dark never loses sight of the pathos of blackface performance. Phillips does a great job of capturing Williams as a melancholic alcoholic who has internalized American culture's racism and criticisms of his work by black intellectuals--he's really getting it from both ends, so to speak--but the book rarely vent [...]

    • Kate said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      I feel like a bad person for not knowing who Bert Williams was before I started reading this book. I'm still not convinces I know him, because this book was fraught with Williams' confusion over his own identity as a Black performer at the turn of the 19th and into the 20th century. A (and it pains me to write this) "coon," mocking his own blackness (often in blackface, Williams elicited laughs from white audiences and often disgust or outright hatred from African American audiences. He gave up [...]

    • Kris McCracken said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      A somewhat confusing narrative that shifts regularly from character to character and from fiction to reality. Of course, this is in the cause of underlining the ambiguities of any claim to 'truth', but it can occasionally lead the reader to tear at his hair.The text itself weaves news clippings and interviews, and extracts from the original musicals and songs made famous by Bert Williams, once said to be the most famous black man in America. It has it's merit, but I'm not sure that it made me an [...]

    • Jennifer said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      This book tells the tale of Bert Williams, one of America's first black Vaudeville performers. It is basically historical fiction, told from a first-person perspective, but it is fascinating nevertheless. Set in the early half of the 20th Century, it outlines the struggle of black performers to gain credibility in an all-white theatre environment, during a time when white actors were still doing 'black-face'. This book is unflinching and touching, and although the storyline can get a little conf [...]

    • Simone said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      Dancing in the Dark is a novel about Bert Williams, an African American entertainer in the 1800's performing as a "Black face" actor. The novel explores racism in the form of black face performances. Caryl Phillips used dialogue and characterization to illustrate the life of an African American man and his struggle against racism and identity. The novel is divided into chapters and acts. This creates a sense of place and helps the reader follow the story as it progresses.

    • Tomi Adenekan said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      Typical Caryl Phillips book. Very well written but oh, sad. The first read, it was very moving and enjoyable. After the second read, though, I started to see flaws Why does his protagonist's life have to be so unrelentingly unhappy! I've read a couple of other books by the author and they're both along similar lines. I guess he's just an author happy to write sad books. He does it well.

    • Rose Anderson said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      This is a brutally frank portrayal of the conflicting tensions between freedom and revulsion during the life journey of the first black American star as he performs in Ziegfeld's Follies in blackface.

    • Pgregory said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      Always interested in early American musical theater history, and Bert Williams is one of the most fascinating figures. I thought this would be more history and less novel-like, but it's well written.

    • Cailin said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      I appreciate historical fiction and I'm sure the sadness that the main character experiences in this story was very real and wide spread during that time, but it was just too depressing for me to get anything thing else out of it.

    • VeganMedusa said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      The jumping around in points of view (from person to person, as well as from 1st person to 3rd person to newspaper article) was too distracting for me.

    • Beverly said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      this was a top read for me in 2007

    • Maruk said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      This book is awkwardly written, it jumps from third person to first then back to third and this disorientation made it an arduous read.

    • Niklas said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      eh, not feeling it on the textual architectonics. feels like a good execution of talent

    • Beth Shields-Szostak said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      1st edition, signed by author

    • Linda said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      E-book given to me as a gift. Not something I would have purchased, but interesting none the lest.

    • Scott Moore said:
      Oct 16, 2018 - 01:06 AM

      A beautifully written - and fictionalized - glimpse into the life of Bert Williams. I need to re-read this one.

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