Instead of Tchaikovsky's music, Russian ÇmigrÇ Poznansky, a librarian at Yale, here emphasizes ``the man who wrote the music.'' Without the music, though, Tchaikovsky's life seems to have little point, and the man himself appears to be thoroughly repulsive, arrogant, exploitative, and disloyal, a self-centered pederast, emotionally and morally crippled. Born into a family ``saturated with eroticism,'' both Tchaikovsky and his brother were homosexual from childhood, with incest being, according to Poznansky, ``not inconceivable,'' perhaps ``indisputable.'' As Tchaikovsky succeeded as a musician, he traveled the capitals of Europe, entering into sexual alliances with princes, street urchins, servants, other musicians, even his own nephew, over whom he obsessed for much of his life, preferring always young men, preferably below the age of 15. Tchaikovsky used women, too, marrying a compliant young girl, abandoning her after two weeks, and later blaming her for causing him moral, psychological, even ``hemorrhoidal'' pain when she refused to divorce him. In another instance, he allowed the widowed Mrs. von Meck to support him for 13 years on the condition that she never attempt to see him. At last, her fortune and health declining, she sent him a large and final sum in advance—whereupon he accused her of ``betraying'' him, of being ``perfidious'' and ``cruel.'' In spite of the sexual license of the upper class, homosexuality was illegal and several of Tchaikovsky's young friends committed suicide; according to Poznansky, the composer did not, as legend has it, but died of cholera. Poznansky concludes, having offered no evidence to support it, that Tchaikovsky's life ``is a generous achievement worth telling for its own sake.'' The evidence he does offer supports an interpretation of the composer as a classic narcissist, a concept relevant to his talent and his music. But, while Poznansky claims to be writing ``historical psychology,'' he seems to show little interest in or knowledge of psychology, nor does he get past the charming facade and effusive letters in his pursuit of what he calls the ``inner man.'' (Sixty-four photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 1991

ISBN: 0-02-871885-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991



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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