A nostalgic, rueful, and sometimes sweetly funny collection.

Digressive, impressionistic musings on love, loss, and “the multiselves we all carry inside.”

When he was a boy, poet and essayist Goldbarth (Creative Writing/Wichita State Univ.; Selfish: Poems, 2015, etc.) was thrilled by a publishing gimmick promoted by Ace Books: for 35 cents, science-fiction fans could buy two books in one, “each upside down to the other, each with its independent enticing cover and title page.” Goldbarth uses this “topsy-turvying” for his latest collection of previously published essays, but since both sides have the same cover, containing essays not thematically or stylistically different, his choice, though obviously an homage, seems puzzling. More logical was his plan to publish an Ace Double with a life of Keats on one side and a life of Clyde Tombaugh—a self-taught astronomer who discovered 29,000 galaxies, 3,196 asteroids, 1,800 variable stars, 2 comets, and the planet Pluto—on the other. As it is, Goldbarth tells both stories in “Two Characters in Search of an Essay,” an imaginative juxtaposition of two lives focused on, and guided by, a quest to transcend mundane reality. The author shares that quest: “I want to write a poem that’s good enough to endure beyond my own bodily life,” he confesses; “I want to work at a marriage that’s finally larger and more luminous than either I or my wife as individuals.” Love—between Keats and Fanny Brawne, for example, or Goldbarth and his wife—occupies his thoughts, as does the mirroring of past and present. He muses on lust in “Roman Erotic Poetry,” which juxtaposes the love poems of Catullus with the “con-, recom-, and uncombining” of friends and colleagues: Martha and Arthur, who have split up; and Sweet and Danny, who seem obviously in love—obvious to everyone but themselves. “We are so royally screwed up, we human beings,” concludes the author, whose tone ranges from poetic and literary to slapdash and colloquial, which can make for jarring reading.

A nostalgic, rueful, and sometimes sweetly funny collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55597-761-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016



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

Close Quickview