Uncommonly graceful and wise.

Well-wrought, deeply thoughtful personal essays from a master of the form.

“Memory is a room always hitched to our travels,” writes Masters (English/Carnegie Mellon Univ.; Elegy for Sam Emerson, 2006, etc.). That room gets a thorough airing as the aging author looks back on a rich literary life, which has included an unbalanced literary friendship with William Humphrey and a warm one with Wright Morris, who in retirement supplies Masters with a remark that could serve as an inscription for this collection: “I am overwhelmed by the past.” This son of poet Edgar Lee Masters writes about his grandparents, parents, lovers, wives and children (he alludes to an estranged daughter)—“generations scrambling over each other”—to bring a kind of order to the discontinuity of his life. He memorably recounts his arrest on trumped-up disorderly-conduct charge as a teenager, all the while confessing in his mind guilt for an array of larger sins and offenses for which he’d heretofore gone unpunished. He recaptures the exhilaration of criss-crossing the country as a youth and his repeated, treasured visits to France. He recalls working as a 15-year-old civilian plane spotter during World War II. He honors the return of a long-lost, runaway dog, who, like the author, “[has] had adventures, but…remembered where he came from.” He fondly looks back on the gift of Robinson Crusoe that inspired his writing career. Whether he’s remarking on the mundane—a pear, a piece of pie, a hotel room—or his mother’s dementia (“a revision of history in progress”), Masters reliably delivers insights that make every page a delight. Hints of Thoreau, Twain, Hemingway and, above all, Montaigne, mark his approach, but the hard-earned voice that emerges is surely his own.

Uncommonly graceful and wise.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8032-2271-7

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009



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

Close Quickview