Nearly six decades’ worth of eloquent bile, dispensed with unmatched craft and wit.

A splendid, savvy distillation of the best from the veteran novelist and essayist.

This lively volume’s raison d’etre is the inclusion of recent politically charged commentary, but most readers will huddle happily with its several golden oldies. For example, the included non-literary essays conclude with “Black Tuesday,” a reaction to the events of 9/11 that draws the mordant conclusion that “each month we are confronted by a new horrendous enemy at whom we must strike before he destroys us.” Fair—and true—enough, but lesser mortals have made such observations. It took a writer of Vidal’s prodigious gifts to deflate the godlike reputations of the Kennedy clan (“The Holy Family”) and America’s most ebulliently macho chief executive (“Theodore Roosevelt: An American Sissy”), and to examine tax inequity and activism during our early history (“Homage to Daniel Shays”) and the late unlamented 1970s (“The Second American Revolution”). Elsewhere, in a clutch of literary essays, Vidal honors such critically embattled contemporaries as Tennessee Williams, Edmund Wilson and the now-rediscovered Dawn Powell. He’s rougher on others, such as the purveyors of “new fiction” led by maverick innovators Pynchon and Barthes (“American Plastic: The Matter of Fiction”) and university-based scholar-critics who overexplain and obfuscate the obvious (“The Hacks of Academe”). But Vidal strolls through many arenas, offering an affectionately incisive guide to Italo Calvino’s whimsical complexity and a brilliant analysis—really, it’s almost beyond praise—of the industrious and honorable William Dean Howells, whom Vidal has the good sense to admire almost unreservedly.

Nearly six decades’ worth of eloquent bile, dispensed with unmatched craft and wit.

Pub Date: June 17, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-52484-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008



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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