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NONFICTION 2001-2014

Fuel for Hell’s minions, a fan’s notes for fans.

The storied punk rocker, autodidact, and memoirist (I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, 2013) careens among a host of lit- and culture-crit topics.

The best parts of Hell’s collection of essays, taken from various publications over the last couple of decades, concern himself. Why punk? “I wasn’t choosing doubt and suspicion and despair,” he writes, “I was taken there by reality.” The author nods at intellectual ancestors: some are the usual suspects, such as Rimbaud, Warhol, and the Velvet Underground (“the first completely hitless rock and roll band to end up in everyone’s short-list pantheon of all-time best groups”), while some are less obvious—e.g., Robert Bresson and Nathanael West. Most of his scattered pieces work, as with a lovely meditation on the sometimes-unlovely graffiti found in the infamous CBGB bathroom and a muscular if unlikely celebration of muscle cars. (But does anyone really need to hear, at length, that Orson Welles was a genius?) Sometimes wistfully, sometimes nostalgically, even though he would certainly disavow such sentimentality, Hell limns an aesthetic that, like the New York scene of the mid-1970s, is part dumb and part profound. Though he takes The Ramones down a peg or two by calling them the cartoon, Bay City Rollers–ish creation they were (“they conceived of themselves as a boy band and a brand…more than anything else”), he praises tutelary spirit and partner in crime Patti Smith for a moment of punk brilliance in a book the two worked on called Merde: “She drew some pictures for it and one of them was just the penciled word ‘There’s not enuf time’ (she first wrote ‘enough’ and changed it to ‘enuf’ which was better.” Punk, he adds, is subversive, snotty, and adolescent—and, he adds from a wizened point of view, “a good idea.”

Fuel for Hell’s minions, a fan’s notes for fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59376-627-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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