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August writers and intimations of mortality mark this year’s fine collection in this annual series. In her introduction, novelist and master essayist Ozick (Fame and Folly, 1996, The Puttermesser Papers; 1997; etc.) writes with characteristic firmness of the “living voice” of the essay. Maybe it’s due to the coming of the end of the century, to the ages of these writers, or to Ms. Ozick’s own personal outlook, but the voices bending our ears this year are often settled yet still in awe of humanity. Ian Frazier finds Queens, New York, a kaleidoscope of hopes; Brian Doyle is moved by the force of the Catholic Church; Sven Birkerts explores the “transformative” power of the act of reading, and more. Nearly without exception, the writing in the essays is so good that if you love the genre, you almost have to sit before the words and be happy. The rub? As in some previous years, it’s the presence of many more Sure-to-Please Masters than Newer Writers Deserving Attention, as well as the high representation of Well-known magazines in the volume. Though who can truly quibble with a lineup that includes Coetzee, Kincaid, and McPhee, and that culls from the New Yorker and other estimable venues? It’s just that while essay fans read such collections to revisit old friends, most of us also hope to find stunning work from little-known writers and magazines. For instance, it’s pleasing to be introduced to Anwar F. Accawi, who details with finality the wreck of his Lebanese village by modernity in “The Telephone,” and to get a smattering from less-mined journals like Alaska Quarterly Review. Someday, please, more of the new and less of the old. For an angrier, more confessional, or more reportorial mix, we—ve been put on hold.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1998

ISBN: 0-395-86051-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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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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