Like a performance by Marceau himself, Shawn Wen’s debut book is a captivating exercise in style and form. It immortalizes the silent man in words ... Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause is indeed spare in its prose, which is, paradoxically, indicative of the fact that Wen has complete command of her subject ... Wen distills Marceau’s life by allowing his eccentricities, words, life, and work to speak for him. Wen’s admiration for Marceau is most evident in her beautifully wrought descriptions of his best-known performances; these careful renderings and thoughtful observations bring Marceau’s movements to life on the page ... When this passion is approached by an obsessive biographer like Wen, Marceau’s many legacies — including his penchant for amassing wild collections and his sublime ability to embody the infinite onstage — are not only understood, but also immortalized.
It isn’t easy to turn a biography into poetry. But Shawn Wen does exactly that with her portrait of mime artist Marcel Marceau ... Wen has written her first book with the kind of poetic zeal that suits an artist who practically created silent cinema on stage ... Translating Marceau’s backstory is one thing, but evoking his mime performances on the page is an incredibly difficult feat that the author accomplishes successfully ... By framing Marceau’s life as a lyrical ode, we aren’t bogged down by dates and key accomplishments...We are instead let into the life of an artist whose movements became the language of his art ... Where the book lags is in the listings of items found in Marceau’s home, from silverware to books. These details break the momentum of Wen’s prose and should have been scaled back instead of being peppered between Marceau’s feats ... an invigorating and memorable paean to Marceau’s talent and tragedies, wrapped in a melodic critique that is unafraid to show the pain of an artist who sometimes felt trapped in a box.
[Wen] has fashioned a selective writing style that effectively pays homage to both the history of mime and its solitary master ... Wen crafts diamond-cut paragraphs that place the reader in Marceau’s enthralled audiences. A lustful affair turns into a long and loving partnership in three minutes of walking with intention and emotion, followed by a scene depicting David and Goliath, with Marceau as Bip playing all roles. These invaluable descriptions by a writer versed in the tradition of making the nonvisible vibrant should be read slowly and with the same seemingly effortless focus Marceau gave to his art.