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  • Writer's pictureCharles Arrowsmith

Review: The Bloodied Nightgown by Joan Acocella (LA Times)

Updated: Mar 16

“I do think I know a hot dog from a real artist,” Joan Acocella observed modestly last year. Few would disagree. Watching her tell them apart, with an occasional blast of her savage wit, was a treat for readers for four decades. Sadly, the publication of her new collection, “The Bloodied Nightgown and Other Essays,” comes just weeks after her death Jan. 7 at age 78. Bringing together some of her smartest and most entertaining pieces on literature and language published between 2007 and 2021, the volume must now serve as a makeshift monument to Acocella’s career.


Many knew her best for her dance writing — she was the New Yorker’s dance critic for more than 20 years — but “The Bloodied Nightgown” is set offstage, in the library. Acocella was a cultural omnivore, and the menu here is correspondingly eclectic: Dracula, dictionaries, dirty words; Marilynne Robinson, Richard Pryor, Elena Ferrante; Gilgamesh, Beowulf, “Little Women.” The book’s 24 pieces offer not just an inventory of Acocella’s interests but also shining examples of what made her such a pleasure to read.


For the review in full, visit The Los Angeles Times.

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