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That sense of joy infuses these gentle essays. “Old age sits in a chair,” writes Hall, “writing a little and diminishing.”...

The writing life at age 85.

In this collection of 14 autobiographical essays, former U.S. Poet Laureate Hall (Christmas at Eagle Pond, 2012, etc.) reflects on aging, death, the craft of writing and his beloved landscape of New Hampshire. Debilitated by health problems that have affected his balance and ability to walk, the author sees his life physically compromised, and “the days have narrowed as they must. I live on one floor eating frozen dinners.” He waits for the mail; a physical therapist visits twice a week; and an assistant patiently attends to typing, computer searches and money matters. “In the past I was often advised to live in the moment,” he recalls. “Now what else can I do? Days are the same, generic and speedy….” Happily, he is still able to write, although not poetry. “As I grew older,” he writes, “poetry abandoned me….For a male poet, imagination and tongue-sweetness require a blast of hormones.” Writing in longhand, Hall revels in revising, a process that can entail more than 80 drafts. “Because of multiple drafts I have been accused of self-discipline. Really I am self-indulgent, I cherish revising so much.” These essays circle back on a few memories: the illness and death of his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, which sent him into the depths of grief; childhood recollections of his visits to his grandparents’ New Hampshire farm, where he helped his grandfather with haying; grateful portraits of the four women who tend to him: his physical therapist, assistant, housekeeper and companion; and giving up tenure “for forty joyous years of freelance writing.”

That sense of joy infuses these gentle essays. “Old age sits in a chair,” writes Hall, “writing a little and diminishing.” For the author, writing has been, and continues to be, his passionate revenge against diminishing.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0544287044

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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