Man with the Dancing Eyes
by Sophie Dahl
path from model to actress is well-trod, but from model
to writer? It's hard not to be skeptical about Sophie Dahl,
mannequin-slash-scribe, teaming up with illustrator Annie
Morris for this slender tale of girl meets boy.
"The Man with the Dancing Eyes" is a pleasant,
actually sort of charming (if quick) read, and the pictures
are nice to look at: minimal, doodlish illustrations in
mostly ink and watercolor. Many a Williamsburger would be
more than capable of executing the scrawly lines and pretty
washes, but so be it. The heroine, named Pierre because
she was conceived in the hotel of the same name, lives in
London on a houseboat called the Glimmety Glammety. She
works for a rare book seller, Mr. Beany, who is illustrated
with a perfectly English pink face and is "tender-hearted,
stout and a bit of an old soak, truth be told. He owned
a lurcher named Sampson, smelt of tweed, tobacco and starched
linen, and every day at one o'clock sharp he would have
his ritual lunch, a pint of Guinness and a teacup of Jameson's."
Pierre meets, you guessed it, a man with dancing eyes.
Dancing Eyes sings her Bob Dylan, gives her sweet peas,
takes her to endless parties and feeds her oceans of champagne.
While Dahl sprinkles in enough quirky details to spice up
a formulaic plot, she also sometimes tries too hard to be
writerly, with lines like, "she loped by, gangly as
a baby giraffe, green eyes flashing, a whisper of a smile
playing on her lips."
When Dancing Eyes commits an "indiscretion,"
Pierre takes off for the "city of her conception,"
where she lives on West Fourth and falls in love with New
York, drinking zambuca in Brooklyn and visiting mummies
at the Met. She also meets some cleverly invented supporting
characters, like Hubert the Hairdresser and a roommate named
Blue from New Orleans. A long line of "unsuitable suitors"
does not inspire Pierre and she pines for Dancing Eyes.
Will they ever meet again? You'll have to take your suspense
to the bookstore to find out.
-- Christine Leahy