A curious combination of fiction and criticism celebrating primarily the great jazz musicians of the '50s. Dyer, a British novelist and critic, calls his method ``imaginative criticism,'' in that he creates dialogue and situations loosely based on oral histories. Inspired by a series of famous photographs (which, oddly, are not reproduced here), this is a rogue's gallery of jazzmen, from the last, alcohol-drenched days of famed tenor saxophonist Lester Young through the delusion-filled life of pianist Bud Powell and the elephantine anger and musical passions of bassist/composer Charles Mingus, to name a few. Dyer has a neat turn of phrase and can aptly sum up a musician's style in prose (Thelonious Monk's piano playing is described as ``dripping [notes] like booze from a spilled glass, the tune falling to the floor in puddles''). However, because the reader has no idea where fact ends and fiction begins, these essays are more frustrating than illuminating. And because much of the material Dyer draws on is easily available in the jazz literature, one would be better served by referring to the original material rather than relying on his high flights of fancy. As a means of linking the vignettes, Dyer has created a story of Duke Ellington and his devoted driver as they travel from one gig to another; these little snippets don't add up to much. To appease those critics who will be repelled by his fact/fictional stories, he has added a short essay on jazz, very much soaked in the latest jargon. Here, he gets to pound home the points he made more subtly in the fictional sections, even as he argues that jazz is the one art form that transcends criticism. A false note in the history of jazz criticism.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-865-47490-7

Page Count: 205

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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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 20, 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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