Often overwrought and ostentatious—like a love letter, which of course it is.

THE DELIGHTED STATES

A BOOK OF NOVELS, ROMANCES & THEIR UNKNOWN TRANSLATORS, CONTAINING TEN LANGUAGES, SET ON FOUR CONTINENTS, & ACCOMPANIED BY MAPS, PORTRAITS, SQUIGGLES, ILLUSTRATIONS, & A VARIETY OF HELPFUL INDEXES

A brash, well-read British novelist contemplates the history of his craft, the nature of artistic influence, the complexities of translation and the literary lint caught in the convolutions of his own (figurative) navel.

In a work that has nearly as many chapters as pages (not to mention its numerous “volumes,” “books,” illustrations, indexes and other flotsam), Thirlwell (Politics, 2003) expands an interesting essay into a tedious tome. He rounds up many of the usual suspects here: Cervantes, Joyce, Nabokov, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Hemingway, Kafka, Diderot, Pushkin, Bellow and Proust. Also appearing are some unusual suspects: the French Édouard Dujardin, Italian Italo Svevo, Czech Bohumil Hrabal and Polish Witold Grombrowicz. The author challenges conventional wisdom throughout. Translations do work, he declares, even bad ones; the style can emerge despite inaccuracies and infelicities. Thirlwell can turn an effective phrase of his own now and then. The novel, he avers, is an “international mongrel”; he calls his own effort “a description of a milky way, an aurora borealis.” His scholarship is impressive. He appears to have read about everything worth reading (and lots not-so-worth reading) and to be aware of the various coincidences that make literary history both appealing and puzzling. He shows us Joyce sitting in a Paris lecture by Nabokov; we see the volumes of Diderot on Pushkin’s bookshelves. If Thirlwell finds enormous relevance in small essays published in tiny periodicals, he also has the wisdom not to mistake the ripple on the river for the river itself. He climbs to a high vantage point, shows us the river’s twisting course, the places where it’s overflowed its banks and the distant horizon where it disappears into the unknown.

Often overwrought and ostentatious—like a love letter, which of course it is.

Pub Date: April 22, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-13722-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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NUTCRACKER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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