By Jennifer Reese
February 12, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints

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The elegant, incisive essays in Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints, mostly sketches of 20th-century writers and dancers, circle the mystery of sustained creativity, which Joan Acocella sensibly believes is rooted not in neurosis, but in ”ordinary, Sunday-school virtues such as tenacity.” Her profiles will deepen your insights into Susan Sontag (”The world! Sontag loves it!”) and Saul Bellow, whose sentences she likens to ”hall closets; you open them and everything falls out.” She’ll also convince you that your life is woefully incomplete until you read Italo Svevo’s novel Zeno’s Conscience and Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity. A

Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints

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