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The Man with the Dancing Eyes
by Sophie Dahl
(Bloomsbury, 2003)

The 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."

Other Book Reviews:

A Whistling Woman
- A. S. Byatt

Being America
- Jebediah Purdy

The Man with the Dancing Eyes
- Sophie Dahl

The Stone Virgins
- Yvonne Vera

The Murdering
of My Years

- Mickey Z

Vanishing Splendor
- Alain Vircondelet

Skirt and Fiddle
- Tristan Egolf

- Arthur Bradford

Nowhere Man
- Aleksandar Hemon

The Book of Illusions
- Paul Auster

Lightning Field
- Dana Spiotta

It's a Free Country
- Danny Goldberg

Some of the Parts
- T Cooper

- Jonathon Dee

The White
- Deborah Larsen
Into the Buzzsaw
- Kristina Borjesson

- Ian McEwan

The Black Veil
- Rick Moody

Tempting Faith DiNapoli
- Lisa Gabriele

- Lynn Breedlove

Africa Speaks
- Mark Goldblatt

The Shape of a Pocket
- John Berger

Media Unlimited
- Todd Gitlin

Carter Beats the Devil
- Glen David Gold

Somebody's Gotta Tell It!
Jack Newfield
Violence, Nudity, Adult Content
- Vince Passaro

Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace
- Gore Vidal
The War Against Cliche
- Martin Amis
Look at Me
- Jennifer Egan

Them: Adventures With Extremists
- Jon Ronson

Tishomingo Blues
- Elmore Leonard

Letters to a Young Contrarian Christopher Hitchens
With Love and Squalor
Kip Kotzen and Thomas Beller
Shanghai Baby
Wei Hui
Shop Talk
Philip Roth

Halls of Fame
John D'Agata
This is Not a Novel
David Markson
My Name is Red
Orhan Pamuk
Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America
Barbara Ehrenreich
Spreading Misandry
P. Nathanson and K. Young

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

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[email protected] | April 2003 | Issue 37
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