Elegant, interesting, even memorable, certainly more so than most magazine writing.



New Yorker editor Remnick (King of the World, 1998, etc.) continues a happy tradition of self-anthologizing, gathering favorite pieces from the past two decades.

If there is a theme in these disparate pieces, it is to be discerned in what Remnick calls his “attempt to see someone up close, if only for a moment in time.” Thus two sterling profiles of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who may have kept himself at an Olympian remove in his gated-compound exile in Vermont, both out of Frostian disdain for his neighbors and of justifiable paranoia, given the hatred the Soviet regime felt for him. Philip Roth, another Remnick subject, keeps himself similarly inaccessible in the New York countryside, mostly so he can get his writing done; by Remnick’s account, the prolific Roth does little else, though “over the years, Roth has let himself be diverted at times from his work.” Don DeLillo won’t admit much diversion at all, unlike Václav Havel, who put a human face on Czechoslovakia’s postcommunist government by, among other things, puttering about in the halls of the presidential palace on a motor scooter. Remnick’s pieces often touch on thorny issues, as with his profile of an American-Russian couple who are shaking up the world of translation of Russian literary classics and his little study of British leader Tony Blair, who muses, just before the Iraq invasion, about getting rid of Robert Mugabe and “the Burmese lot” and concludes that such types should be removed from the stage when possible: “I don’t because I can’t, but when you can you should.” Remnick also profiles boxers, in the closing section on the sweet science, which is seemingly a passion of Remnick’s but a decided step down from the political and writerly topics he’s pursued thus far.

Elegant, interesting, even memorable, certainly more so than most magazine writing.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-307-26358-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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