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Erudition lightly worn, eloquence finely crafted.

A veteran novelist (Heir to the Glimmering World, 2004, etc.) and essayist (Quarrel and Quandary: Essays, 2000, etc.) expatiates on the lives and works of literary figures as diverse as Helen Keller and Isaac Babel, Sylvia Plath and Azar Nafisi.

In these rich and varied essays, Ozick displays not only the wide range of her reading but also the impressive capaciousness of her imagination. The title essay is a brief, eloquent plea for the novel (threatened by movies and memoirs), which Ozick claims is “the last trustworthy vessel of the inner life.” A prominent presence throughout is Henry James (Ozick says she kept The Ambassadors on her desk while she wrote her own first novel, Trust), no more so than in the final essay, an ironic “interview” in which James endures and counters questions about his sexuality from a 21st-century interviewer. Another of Ozick’s interests is the conflict between high and low culture. In “Highbrow Blues,” she recalls the Franzen-Oprah contretemps and comments with some sadness that Philip Roth’s Shop Talk (2001), which in more literary times might have made a splash, instead caused barely a ripple. Ozick greatly admires Roth and Bellow but has little use for Mailer, whose work she dismisses in a couple of places. In the rare Sylvia Plath item with nary a mention of Ted Hughes (a review of Plath’s The Unabridged Journals, 2000), she quips, “She was both Emily Dickinson and Betty Crocker.” But it’s a long, reflective and personal piece about Lionel Trilling that is the book’s payoff.

Erudition lightly worn, eloquence finely crafted.

Pub Date: June 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-47050-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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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