A reminder that daily ruminations of even a highly literate and engaging writer are not invariably erudite.



Globetrotting polyglot Manguel (Reading Pictures, 2001, etc.) rereads favorite books, one per month, as the Iraq War simmers, then boils.

A chronicle of one’s reading is quickly becoming a popular subgenre among memoirists, and Manguel’s entry reflects his multilingual capabilities as well as his eclectic interests. To Wells, Kipling, and Doyle, he stirs in some Goethe and Cervantes, then spices the mixture with Dino Buzzati, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, and others. Manguel’s title fits. The diary format allows him to reflect on the writers and their texts but also on current events, dreams (including an affecting one about him and his late father dining in a restaurant), friends, houses, gardens, regrets, and surprises. His fondness for supplying long—perhaps overlong—quotations from other writers at times gives his text the feel of a commonplace work teetering on the brink of pretentiousness. And there are an awful lot of lists—e.g., favorite detective novels, favorite cities, fictional mad scientists, books he wishes he owned (Keats’s copy of Chapman’s Homer, etc.). The “diary” begins in June 2002 and concludes in May 2003; as the Iraq War moves from bombast to bombs, Manguel’s criticism of the Bush administration sharpens. There is, he says at last, no moral distinction between Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. We hear too about his “new” house in France (it dates to the 13th century) and the shelving he’s installing to accommodate a personal collection that appears to rival the Great Library of Alexandria. Like many journals, this intermingles the profound with the trite and presents at least one grand irony: Manguel declares early that he doesn’t like people to sum up books for him, then spends the rest of his text practicing that very sin.

A reminder that daily ruminations of even a highly literate and engaging writer are not invariably erudite.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-374-24742-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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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 20, 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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