A compelling book offering something to offend nearly anyone.

By the end of this impassioned book, readers may question whether it has proven the thesis of its title, but there’s no question that the author meets fire with fire, leaving scorched earth on both sides of the critical divide.

In Reality Hunger (2010), Fakes (2012), and even the psycho-biographical Salinger (2013), Shields (Other People, 2017, etc.) has focused on what is really real and refused to settle for easy answers. He suggests that the left’s bad faith has paved the way for Trump: “the pitiful veneer of ‘genteel society’ that he has gleefully ripped away, how full of shit so many people on the left are, not because they’re wrong per se but because they’re so committed to an Oprah-ized, airbrushed, focus-grouped, ultimately empty language in which they can’t convince anyone of anything anymore.” But if liberals’ hypocrisies have left the country starving for something more authentic, then the joke’s on us—and maybe on Trump as well. “Trump is always playing Trump—fighting to win, but win what or why? He has no clue and knows he has no clue,” writes the author. “And he knows we know he has no clue. And his lostness, his irreducible sadness is what I find so compelling, almost moving, about him.” This may well be a singular perspective on the subject, and since Shields knows that Trump is such an easy target, he doesn’t spend much time taking potshots. Instead, he lets Trump write a large portion of the text, quoting him at length (sometimes out of context), while aiming his venom at those in the culture who might mediate and interpret. Thus, NPR: “Anything—anything—is better than onesy-twosy earnestness. I literally can’t stand to listen to it anymore.” And David Foster Wallace, “who killed himself—partly, I think, because he worshipped ‘fiction,’ which had completely deserted him.” If Trump is no more real than the reality TV that created the monster, then Shields clearly believes that the era of polite discourse is over and that the brutal truth is the only truth there is.

A compelling book offering something to offend nearly anyone.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945796-99-9

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Thought Catalog Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2018



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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