THE FAME LUNCHES

ON WOUNDED ICONS, MONEY, SEX, THE BRONTËS, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF HANDBAGS

Essays that go down like candy but nourish like health food.

A veteran essayist for the New Yorker and numerous other significant publications returns with an eclectic collection of pieces, all of which feature her unique style and voice.

Most of Merkin’s (Dreaming of Hitler: Passions and Provocations, 1997, etc.) pieces date from the previous decade, though she offers one from 1980 about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (she calls him “preeminently the poet of withdrawn promise”). Merkin includes book reviews, reflections on the sad stories of sadder celebrities (Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and others), self-revelatory reflections on personal appearance (lip gloss, pedicures), some accounts of her personal obsessions (the Bloomsbury Group, the Brontës), tributes to writers she’s admired (poet Anne Carson, W.G. Sebald, John Updike), and thoughts about fashion and some eminent actresses (Liv Ullman, Diane Keaton, Cate Blanchett). Merkin’s style is inevitably exploratory—these are “essays” in the word’s literal sense. Like Montaigne, she writes to figure something out, not because she’s already figured it out. She also has a fondness for the parenthetical observation; in her piece about Virginia Woolf, she has some lengthy examples of this—appropriate, for Woolf herself loved them. Some of Merkin’s essays are aimed directly at women (though curious men—and/or ignorant ones—will surely find them informative): a piece about handbags (she’s bought and returned many), another on flirting, another about having male gay friends. One of her most touching essays is about the rise and fall of Betty Friedan, whom Merkin credits for lighting the fuse on the women’s movement. However, according to the author, Friedan’s personal flaws—and the rise of the more telegenic Gloria Steinem—occasioned her fall from power. Throughout, Merkin also comments in a variety of ways about her own appearance—her physical virtues, the effects of aging and the broken promises to herself.

Essays that go down like candy but nourish like health food.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-14037-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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