THE CROSS OF REDEMPTION

UNCOLLECTED WRITINGS

There are too many ephemeral or weakly written pieces to appeal beyond Baldwin’s devoted admirers, but the best of the ’60s...

A grab bag of pieces from novelist and firebrand Baldwin (1924–1987), varying in quality but marked by his trademark ferocity.

The author’s best-known and most powerful nonfiction pieces have long been available in book form (The Price of the Ticket, 1985, etc.), so inevitably this book has a B-list feel to it. Most disposable are the book reviews he wrote in the late ’40s, which reveal a writer struggling to find his voice, and in which he takes swipes at Maxim Gorky, Erskine Caldwell and James M. Cain with little subtlety or insight. But by the late ’50s and early ’60s, Baldwin’s thinking about American racism matured, balancing reason and outrage, and many of the pieces are worthy companions to his provocative essay collection The Fire Next Time (1963). In “As Much Truth as One Can Bear,” published in 1962, he pleads for an American literature that abandons lost-innocence themes embraced by Hemingway and Faulkner, and throughout his ’60s essays he critiques an American society that had failed to face its hypocrisy head-on. The book is perhaps best read as a showcase for Baldwin’s versatility—he was comfortable covering theater, music and sports through the filter of race. In a long-form reported piece on the Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston prizefight in 1962, the author displays an admirable eye for detail of the boxers as well as the reporters and hangers-on. Similarly, a series of letters from Turkey, Israel and France expose his private concerns about his work as he was finishing his controversial novel Another Country (1962), while the transcript of a 1984 panel on blacks and Jews provides evidence of how well Baldwin could think on the fly.

There are too many ephemeral or weakly written pieces to appeal beyond Baldwin’s devoted admirers, but the best of the ’60s essays underscore the reasons his work endures.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-37882-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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NUTCRACKER

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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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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