A lightweight but endearing and nimble look at how pursuing absurd extremes can illuminate the more mundane aspects of...

Esquire editor at large Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically, 2007, etc.) continues his unique brand of immersion journalism.

The swift-moving collection holds together well, and though the author cultivates the persona of a nebbish, his style is crisp and often laugh-out-loud funny. He examines his love for organizing his days via archaic or eccentric principles, regardless of the confusion inflicted on friends, acquaintances and his long-suffering wife. “I’ve tried to understand the world by immersing myself in extraordinary circumstances,” he writes, and admits the addictive nature of the process, rather than the results. He capably translates these journeys into wry comedy, although he claims that “making life better in the end” is his secondary goal. Some of the participants in his experiments, however, may disagree, such as his son’s attractive nanny, who afforded Jacobs the opportunity to live the life of a beautiful woman—for which the author rather intrusively managed her Internet dating. Next, Jacobs discovered he could “outsource” every aspect of his daily life to companies based in India, apparently staffed by youthful overachievers who are pleased to take on the responsibilities of lazy Americans while presumably thinking, “How the hell did these idiots ever become a superpower?” After encountering a psychotherapist who advocates the cultish lifestyle of “Radical Honesty,” the author spent a month being compulsively truthful: “I had to do some apologizing post-piece, as you might imagine.” He also lived for a month like George Washington, based on the president’s surprisingly useful list of 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation,” and spent a month being completely subservient to his wife (which she felt was long overdue). Each chapter—some of which previously appeared in Esquire—is followed by a “Coda,” in which Jacobs assesses the experiment and its aftermath.

A lightweight but endearing and nimble look at how pursuing absurd extremes can illuminate the more mundane aspects of contemporary existence.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9906-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009



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




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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