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As Prose implores: “Drop everything. Start reading. Now.”

An unabashed fan of reading recommends some of her favorite books.

The prolific literary critic, essayist, and novelist Prose (Mister Monkey, 2017, etc.) follows up Reading Like a Writer (2006) with an eclectic collection of previously published pieces that continue her clarion call for how books can “transport and entertain and teach us.” She sets the stage for the essays with “Ten Things that Art Can Do,” enthusiastically arguing that art is essential to life. She deftly mixes biography and critical analysis to demonstrate how Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein challenges us “to ponder the profound issues raised by the monster and by the very fact of his existence.” Prose’s love of and fascination with Great Expectations, Cousin Bette, Middlemarch, Little Women, and New Grub Street, “so engrossing, so entertaining, so well made,” and Mansfield Park, “arguably the greatest of Austen’s novels,” will have readers anxious to revisit these classics. As a fine practitioner of the art of the short story, Prose feels a kind of “messianic zeal…to make sure that [Mavis] Gallant’s work continues to be read, admired—and loved.” Poet Mark Strand’s “remarkable” collection Mr. and Mrs. Baby offers us distant echoes of “the dark comedy of Kafka and Beckett, the lyrical imagination of Calvino and Schulz.” Prose also praises the work of Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Bowles, Alice Munro, and Charles Baxter. She loves how Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, about refugees, can “alchemize the raw material of catastrophe into art.” Nonfiction is represented here too, as in Gitta Sereny’s “so controversial, so profoundly threatening” Cries Unheard, about an 11-year-old killer, or Diane Arbus’ Revelations, where the photographer “employed the grotesque as a staging ground in her quest for the transcendent.” My Struggle, the six-volume autobiographical work of Karl Ove Knausgaard, is “dense, complex, and brilliant.” Others discussed include Jennifer Egan, Vladimir Nabokov, and Edward St. Aubyn as well as Roberto Bolaño's 2666—"literary genius."

As Prose implores: “Drop everything. Start reading. Now.”

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-239786-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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