A celebration of what it means to be alive in a world of great music.

A vibrant new collection from New Yorker music critic Ross (The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, 2007).

The author brings together the best of his writings, mostly from the New Yorker, with revisions, expansions and a few recently drafted pieces. As such, there is not much new for those who have followed Ross over the last 15 years, but for those who have not explored his work, this is a fine place to start. This book is the ideal introduction not only to the author’s criticism, but to what it means to be a great music critic. For Ross, that means writing with a personal mission that approaches music, as he puts it, “not as a self-sufficient sphere, but as a way of knowing the world.” Indeed, the author is at his best when he artfully pulls down the artificial yet powerful boundaries that keep the classical tradition apart as ponderous and exclusionary in favor of a worldview more embracing of personal musical responses that remain indifferent to genre and social class. The results are mostly successful. The promising second chapter, which traces a four-note musical figure over the course of Western music history, quickly devolves into pedantry, an effect that supports rather than undermines the premise that classical music and its more popular variants can resist the stereotypes associated with buttoned-up white men. Likewise, some of Ross’s arguments rely on the very same false constructs—the decline of classical music, the rising musical literacy—that he rails against elsewhere. Yet the author is delightfully convincing throughout most of the book. What is truly remarkable has less to do with the variety and breadth of his individual subjects—be it Bach, Brahms or Björk—and more to do with his gift to divine meaning within the aggregate of the musical styles, traditions and personalities to which he exposes readers.

A celebration of what it means to be alive in a world of great music.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-18774-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010



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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