A deeply satisfying, beautifully crafted collection of work by a writer of uncommon excellence and humanity.

Fiercely intelligent essays, reportage, and reviews from the award-winning novelist and nonfiction writer.

In a generous gathering of 25 pieces published since 1995, Pinckney (Black Deutschland, 2016, etc.), who once carried around James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son “as if it were a training manual,” examines the African American experience, past and present, from the deeply observant vantage point of a black, gay intellectual. The most compelling pieces illuminate events—e.g., the “shower” of self-help at the Million Man March and tensions on the streets of “sundown town” Ferguson, Missouri, where the author bonded with protesters after the police shooting of Michael Brown. Each is exquisitely detailed, set firmly in history, and filled with personal reflections, unfurling in the beguiling manner of longer pieces in the New York Review of Books, where much of this book first appeared. The title essay describes Pinckney’s arrest for smoking marijuana “in the dark of Sixth Street” in Manhattan. Writing with understanding and skepticism, he examines the centurieslong “surveillance” of black people, Soul on Ice at 50, the black upper class, and the first Obama inaugural in ways that meander pleasingly between distant and highly personal. The lives of his “NAACP faithful” parents are touchstones, as are the careers and works of Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, all considered here. The author first traveled to Europe in 1971, at age 17, and returned to live in Berlin for several years in the 1980s to escape America and racism. Of the 2016 election and the resurgence of white supremacy, he writes: “I mind this happening when I am getting too old to run from it. Shit, do not hit the fan.” Other essays tell the story of blacks in Russia, explore the recent revival of Baldwin’s work, and celebrate the art of Aretha Franklin, whose songs remain a soundtrack in Pinckney’s life.

A deeply satisfying, beautifully crafted collection of work by a writer of uncommon excellence and humanity.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-37-411744-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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

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