Hamilton's book reviews and ``literary articles'' cover a broad span of time and a wide range of interesting and uninteresting subjects. There's little here in the way of penetrating analysis or critical energy to lift these pieces beyond the time-bound immediacy of the column or weekly review. He leads with his best, the first piece being ``A Biographer's Misgivings,'' wherein he discusses his own difficulties in writing and researching the lives of the poet Robert Lowell and the elusive J.D. Salinger. Sorting through the conflicting versions of important episodes in Lowell's tangled life left him wondering ``which Lowell life'' he should attend to. The Salinger biography, of course, with which he hoped ``to arouse in Salinger a sort of grudging curiosity,'' ended in the famous lawsuit and the publication of ``the legal version'' of his book. Most of the other pieces are straight book reviews with little resonance beyond their first appearance. His look at two widely different Sylvia Plath biographies elicits a somewhat muddled and unsolicited defense of the much-maligned Ted Hughes, while his take on a Robert Graves bio reminds him that the poet has ``always been thought of as a bit unsound . . . with . . . a touch of the bogus.'' He has high praise for Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint but little use for the ``weary fictioneering'' of Norman Mailer's ``Nile-long course of Ancient Evenings.'' Aldous Huxley's letters, he notes, show ``what his novels led us to expect: the apotheosis of arid intellectualism.'' A few of the essays will leave American readers cold and bewildered: the doings at the 1982 World Cup; a tough week for the cricketers at Lord's; an incomprehensible look at three books on the financial foibles of the Spurs football team. Hamilton's half-page foreword insufficiently introduces these writings: One wants background, grounding, some element to link such disparate topics into a unified body of work.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-201-48397-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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