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Sensible reflections on the writer's life from a modest master of postwar fiction. While widely respected and, thanks to the popular success of The Natural (1952), more widely read than many of his contemporaries, the novelist and short-story writer Bernard Malamud (1914-86) has remained a somewhat enigmatic figure. As editors Cheuse (The Light Possessed, 1990. etc.) and Delbanco (In the Name of Mercy, 1995, etc.) explain in their loving commentaries, Malamud was a private man, not known for blowing his own horn. He did, however, produce a significant body of reflections on literature, the craft of writing, and his own experiences, now gathered in this agreeable volume. Malamud's best pieces explore the singularities of his formation. In a lecture at Bennington College in 1984, Malamud recollects his long apprenticeship as a high school teacher and as a professor at Oregon State University. In a Paris Review interview he covers this territory in more discursive fashion, interspersing some subtle yet striking remarks about his works. Having called his novel Pictures of Fidelman "a book about finding a vocation," Malamud wryly asks the reader to "forgive the soft impeachment." But essay-length enjoinders to young writers to "take chances" become extended cliches. Still, cliches can have their virtues, and Malamud's have the not inconsiderable virtue of integrity. This quality shines through when Malamud considers his own life experience, for instance, from the perspective of his relation to his Jewish identity. It shines as well in a pair of addresses, given when Malamud served as president of the PEN American Center, which forcefully make the case for the importance of writing as a humanistic, civilizing endeavor. In such pieces, the quiet moral courage at the heart of Malamud's work, his stubborn devotion to the integrity of an artist's unique, individual vision, are thrown into bold relief, reminding us of how much we miss that humane, modest, intelligent voice.

Pub Date: May 23, 1996

ISBN: 0-231-10184-8

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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 19, 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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