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Vaill, Amanda

Vaill, Amanda

PERSONAL:

Married; children: two.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY.

CAREER:

Writer and critic. Former executive editor for Viking Penguin.

WRITINGS:

Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1998.

(With Janet Zapata) Seaman Schepps: A Century of New York Jewelry Design, Vendome Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Esquire, New York, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune.

SIDELIGHTS:

Before becoming a full-time writer and critic, Amanda Vaill was executive editor for the distinguished publishing company Viking Penguin. She left that firm so that she could devote all of her time and efforts to her writing projects, which include her critically lauded debut book, Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story. Many critics have proclaimed Vaill's study of the Murphys one of the most complete stories of the couple, who were part of a circle of American writers and artists known as the Expatriates, and were part of a larger circle of artists known as the Lost Generation. As members of this group, which thrived in Paris during the 1920s, the Murphys entertained prominent figures such as the writers Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the artist Pablo Picasso, and the composer Igor Stravinsky. Vaill begins the biography with the couple's courtship and ends with their later years in the United States after they had moved back to New York so Gerald could take over his father's business. According to Vaill, the couple moved to Paris partially as a way to get away from their disapproving parents, as well as to take advantage of a favorable exchange rate, and to tap into the burgeoning cultural movement.

In addition to discussing Gerald's short, but promising, career as an artist, Vaill discusses some of the tragedies that marred the Murphys' seemingly charmed life. Their sons Patrick and Baoth died of severe illnesses in quick succession in the mid-1930s. While Vaill believes the couple had a deep mutual love for one another, she wrote that Gerald had homosexual tendencies, which drove them apart in their later years. Still, Vaill maintains that the Murphys are best remembered as influential members of the Lost Generation that made Paris a cultural center during the period between the great wars. Steve Forbes, a contributor to Forbes, called Everybody Was So Young a "superbly told tale" that is "riveting." Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman felt that the book is a "discerning portrait … laced with unforgettable anecdotes." Writing for the New York Times Book Review, critic Brooke Allen referred to Vaill as "a skillful and compassionate writer" who has written "a marvelously readable biography."

After coauthoring a book on noted twentieth-century jewelry designer Seaman Schepps, Vaill tackled the complex life of a celebrated choreographer and dancer in Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins. As part of her research, Vaill was allowed unique access to Robbins's correspondence and diaries, and was thus able to provide not only a comprehensive critique of his extensive body of work but also an inside view into the insecurities and personal demons that fueled him. Born into a Jewish family in New York City near the end of World War II, Robbins was often treated cruelly by his parents and by the neighborhood kids, and throughout his life he struggled to keep his personal life hidden as his professional career gained momentum. Also included in Vaill's biography are backstage anecdotes from many of Robbins's most successful productions, including West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof. New York Times Online contributor Janet Maslin regarded Vaill's writing as "articulate and vivid in describing the particulars of each dance." Other critics also approved of the book. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the book as "a critically sophisticated biography that's as compulsively readable as a novel," and called it "essential reading for lovers of theater and dance." M.C. Duhig wrote in a review for Library Journal that Somewhere is a "richly textured portrait of a complex genius," further adding: "This impressive work is thoroughly accessible."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 15, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story, p. 1409.

Forbes, September 21, 1998, Steve Forbes, review of Everybody Was So Young, p. 32.

Library Journal, October 15, 2006, M.C. Duhig, review of Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins, p. 66.

New York Times Book Review, May 24, 1998, Brooke Allen, review of Everybody Was So Young, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2006, review of Somewhere, p. 45.

ONLINE

New York Times Online,http://www.nytimes.com/ (November 30, 2006), Janet Maslin, review of Somewhere.

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