The title of this collection of essays (some delivered as lectures at Oxford in 1989) refers to a quilting pattern—the image, as Showalter (English/Princeton; Sexual Anarchy, 1990, etc.) explains, that best describes women's literature in America: its communal and ritual nature, its continuity, its diversity, its history as a domestic art that lapsed into disrepute before being resurrected into a high art in the 60's. Showalter's dual preoccupation with the role of women writers and the special identity of American literature appears in the first essay, ``Miranda's Story,'' describing the way various American subcultures have appropriated The Tempest—the role of Miranda, the Dark Lady, Shakespeare's sister—as played by American women, the prototype being Margaret Fuller. In successive chapters on Alcott's Little Women, Chopin's The Awakening, and Wharton's The House of Mirth, Showalter identifies the distinctive voices, values, preoccupations, ``hybridity'' of American women's writing that makes any question of being Shakespeare's sister irrelevant. And in an astute chapter on what she calls ``women's gothic,'' she further explores the contributions of women writers to the dominant male culture. Even in her chapter on the lost generation of women writers of the 20's—poets such as Amy Lowell, Sara Teasdale, and Elinor Wylie, and Afro-Americans such as Zora Neale Hurston—she finds, in spite of the exclusion, victimization, and repression, a ``literary history of female mastery and growth.'' Persuasive, ranging, perceptive, unpolemical, Showalter here offers a splendid example of humanistic writing, of her own ``female mastery and growth,'' a genuine contribution to contemporary thinking about women's literature. Her flaw: excessive quoting of scholars who don't write as well as she does, illustrating merely that she has done her homework. (Photographs of quilts.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-19-812383-3

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991



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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