Dancing in the Dark
In this searing novel, Caryl Phillips reimagines the life of the first black entertainer in the U.S. to reach the highest levels of fame and fortune.After years of struggling for success on the stage, Bert Williams (1874—1922), the child of recent immigrants from the Bahamas, made the radical decision to don blackface makeup and play the “coon.” Behind this mask he became a Broadway headliner–as influential a comedian as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and W. C. Fields, who called him “the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew.” It is this dichotomy at Williams’ core that Phillips explores in this richly nuanced, brilliantly written novel, unblinking in its attention to the sinister compromises that make up an identity.
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Dancing in the darkUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
This novel centers on the life of Bert Williams, the black vaudeville performer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He and his partner George Walker performed to wild acclaim on New York City ... Read full review
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Africa Aida Aida's ain't already America Amsterdam Theatre audience banjo Barbary Coast begins Bert Williams Bert's blackface Bob Cole Bon Bon Buddy boys Broadway cakewalk Caryl Phillips chair cigarette Clyde colored performer coon coon songs Cripple Creek Dahomey dancing dark darky decides door drapes dressing room drink Ernest Hogan Eva Tanguay eyes face father feel feet Follies George Walker George's girl glass going hair hand Harlem head hear husband knew laugh leave light lips listens Lottie makeup man's Marshall's Metheney's mind mirror morning Mother move Negro never nigger nigger heaven night onstage partner play seems Seventh Avenue silent singing sits sleep slowly smile songs stands stares Street sure talk tall theater things turn understands vaudeville wait walk watches whiskey wife Williams and Walker Williams's woman word young Ziegfeld