An essential report on the state of the art of American letters.

The venerable literary anthology turns 44, celebrated with the trademark mix of top-shelf poetry, fiction, and essays.

Not everyone who began the journey with Henderson in the mid-1970s is around today: The editor names Tony Hoagland, W.S. Merwin, and Mary Oliver among the recently fallen, and a poem by Tom Sleigh, among other commemorations, honors Denis Johnson, who died in 2017. The contribution by Hoagland, an essay called “The Cure for Racism Is Cancer,” explores the disease that felled him. “From this rocky promontory,” he writes, “you can contemplate the long history of your choices, your mistakes, your good luck. You can think about race, too, because most of the people who care for you will be nonwhite, often from other countries….Your attention is made keen by need and by your intimate dependence upon these inexhaustibly kind strangers.” Hal Crowther contemplates another kind of death in his essay “Dante on Broadway,” in which he notes that the Florence of Dante’s time supported public schools with more than 10,000 students, whereas “seven centuries later in America, a republic with infinitely more wealth and a much higher technical rate of literacy, only the most stubborn optimist could overlook the intellectual stagnation and cultural dry rot that make another Dark Age seem possible, if not imminent.” The point is well taken. In a collection full of standouts and only the occasional clunker, there are many excellent contributions, including a poem by Juan Felipe Herrera remarking on the things border crossers leave behind in the desert, with “children still running with / torn faces all the way to Tucson”; a slightly sardonic story by the always readable Joy Williams; and an entertaining tale by Jason Brown that recounts the odd interaction of an unnamed writer with an eccentric couple: “The quality of Grandma’s crab cakes suffered after five hours of drinking, but semi-inebriation was the only state in which she would agree to feed people outside the family.”

An essential report on the state of the art of American letters.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-888889-95-6

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019



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