Lincoln Kirstein is well known as the founding director of the New York City Ballet, for his writings on dance, photography, painting, and sculpture. Known to few readers, however, is this early (1932) work, his only published novel, autobiographical in content but historical in scope and purpose.
In a revealing Afterword, Mr. Kirstein recalls his family background and education as well as the circumstances surrounding the writing of his novel. Family wealth and the “permissive generosity” of his parents gave him familiarity with “a fraction of literary London, the main European museums, plus Northern Italy, Spain, and North Africa” by the time he had completed his college education. He thus possessed a unique view, which inspired him “to write an ‘historical’ novel which would utilize what I knew and felt about my own times in as pictorial a fashion as I might muster.”
Flesh is Heir is the story of a boy who serves as the type of the first generation arising in the United States after World War I. At boarding school he experiences mortal fear of a crazy classmate: in a glass works he sees the ironical cruelties of manual labor; in London and Paris he encounters the decadence of one pattern of life, and in Venice, the death of another. He returns from abroad to find the triumph of a violent new force, and with that force he is absorbed.
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Lincoln Kirstein has been the Director of the New York City Ballet since 1947.
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