THE PUSHCART PRIZE XX

BEST OF THE SMALL PRESSES

The Pushcart Prize's 20th anniversary is a cause for celebration and concern. No devoted reader can criticize the Pushcart Prize's raison d'àtre: to recognize the best stories, poems, and essays published by small presses and literary magazines and bring them to a wider audience. This 20th collection contains much to delight, a spectral range of voices: lyrical, brutal, naive, devious. Debra Spark's ``Last Things'' is a shockingly, admirably honest account of her sister's early death from cancer. The homespun narrator of Marie Sheppard Williams's ``Wilma Bremer's Funeral'' is a quietly authentic creation. Poetry ranges from Diann Blakely Shoaf's dizzying ``Solo, New Orleans'' to an elegant canto selected from Robert Pinsky's new translation of Dante's Inferno. A few selections, like ``False Water Society'' by Ben Marcus, are utterly baffling. Such a rich collection should send all writers scurrying to their desks, thrilled with fresh energy. But will it prove worth it? The powers behind Pushcart sometimes feel like a private club; this year's winners are too often listed as nominators for other pieces in the same anthology. Literary lions like Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and John Barth seem to have been included not for the merit of their curiously self-conscious pieces but to lend literary weight to the group. In his introduction, Henderson (Her Father: A Memoir, p. 1079, etc.) writes of Rick Moody's ``The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven'': ``Lee [Smith] and I picked Rick's novellathe longest piece ever to run hereafter Rick was excused from the room.'' Cozy, but discouraging to the ranks of the undiscovered. The Pushcart Prize, ideally, should both celebrate noncommercial literature and inspire those who will ensure its continued health in an increasingly bottom-line world. In its 20th year, it is more successful on the first count than the second.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-916366-99-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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NUTCRACKER

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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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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