Novelist Barolini (Umbertina, 1979, etc.) provides an uneven collection of essays that wander in that unclear terrain which links the search for her Italian cultural origins with her essentially American upbringing. Her drive toward artistic expression is informed by her search for a voice and its true territory. The author misses the powerful inspiration that exists in feeling ostracized by ethnicity. She feels a burdensome need to punish the publishing and academic worlds for not having heralded an Italian-American literary tradition, but her argument fails. She quotes widely from a rich tradition of American writers on the importance of being a voice from the outside, but she doesn't hear herself when she cites Garc°a M†rquez: ``The revolutionary duty [of a writer] if you like, is simply to write well.'' Only rarely does Barolini let her own creativity fly. She shows us what she can do in chapters on her earliest intimations of a writerly self; her adult experiences in Rome, where the American and the Italian in her finally meet (this latter was only acquired in adulthood, while living and raising children there); and a loose charting of the wonders of language, in which she maintains her ``belief . . . that any writer from a marginalized position is writing in the most American of traditions—that of the Outsider.'' At last. Too often, she cannot override her need to state and restate the business of being a woman, an Italian woman, and an Italian woman writer. She is at her best when she writes the way memory feels, as when she links her home on James Street in a small upstate New York town with her thoughts about Henry James, or when she cringes at remembering her first encounter with John Cheever through a screen door in her home in Croton, N.Y. She writes richly about her Catholic upbringing, letting us know that she is determined to be heard. If only she could focus on the life at hand—and leave literary proselytizing to commentators.

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-884419-11-9

Page Count: 170

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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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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