By the time Vaslav Nijinsky was nineteen the formerly impoverished youth had already enjoyed exquisite teenage affairs with the forty-something Prince Pavel Dimitrievitch Lvov who drenched him in luxury, a rebound fling with Count Tishkievitch, and had begun his great romantic and professional partnership with Sergei Diaghilev, under whose tutelage Nijinsky was early known as the God of Dance. One of the very few male ballet stars to perform en pointe, his reputation in Russia and Paris grew with each successive role in Cleopatra, Sleeping Beauty, and Giselle. At Diaghilev's urging, Nijinsky began to choreograph his own works and the radical results remain the stuff of legend: at twenty-two, Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun which ended with him masturbating, and a year later Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring which ended with the audience rioting (possibly at Stravinsky's prompting, for the publicity).
Later the same year, impulsively, stupidly, tragically, Nijinsky married Romola de Pulszky, a Hungarian countess who had been chasing him across continents and oceans, finally landing him in Buenos Aires. Enraged, Diaghilev fired him. Nijinsky tried and failed to start his own dance troupe. Stumbling in a new and ill-fitting role, the star who was used to being petted and lavished with gifts now had to support a wife and child with no money and no employment. When his stress was its highest, World War I broke out, and he, a Russian in Hungary, was considered an enemy and held as a prisoner. In 1916 Diaghilev rescued him and got the family to New York, to join his Ballets Russes. From the instant of their joyous kissing reunion, Romola came between the lovers. Predictably, Nijinsky's mental state declined. Imagine performing on stage with a fear of the other dancers and a uncontrollable terror that the trap doors would open. Diaghilev removed himself back to Europe; Nijinsky was the wrong person to be left in charge of the company. Later Diaghilev again tried to reconcile, and again Romola "protected" her husband from him, thwarting any more reunions. Nijinsky's depression turned to delusions and Romola, with his doctors, had him committed to an asylum in Switzerland. It was 1919 and he was twenty-nine. For the next thirty-one years he was in and out of institutions until his death in London in 1950.
Randall Kenan dazzled the literary world with his 1989 debut novel, A Visitation of Spirits, about the inhabitants of a Southern rural black community, including a gay man whose internalized homophobia leads him to tragedy. Three years later his first collection of stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, earned even greater acclaim for another empathetic look at the townsfolk of his imagined Tims Creek, North Carolina. Kenan has won a Guggenheim fellowship, a Whiting Writers award, a John Dos Passos award, a Sherwood Anderson award, and a Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, but he hasn't published any other books of fiction in 18 years. Instead, he wrote a short YA biography of his idol James Baldwin, collected 200 interviews for his 688-page oral history Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, and riffed on Baldwin in a 149-page essay called The Fire This Time. Forty-nine today, he teaches at his alma matter, UNC Chapel Hill.