Intelligent, savvy, and stylish literary journalism.

A master of the craft offers up sprightly and fervent essays.

Malcolm’s latest collection is a follow-up to Forty-One False Starts (2013), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. These 18 pieces, most previously published in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books over the past 10 years, explore a pleasingly wide range of subjects. The first section consists of profiles. In the admiring titular piece, the author examines fashion designer Eileen Fisher, whose clothes “look as if they were heedlessly flung on rather than anxiously selected.” Malcolm herself became part of Fisher’s “kind of cult of the interestingly plain.” A photo of the pianist Yuja Wang, an “existential prodigy,” graces the cover of the book and is the subject of “Performance Artist.” Malcolm seems as much impressed with the “characteristically outré,” extremely short and tight dresses Wang wears when performing, accompanied by a pair of “sadistic high heels,” as she is with Wang’s musical brilliance. Things quiet down in “Three Sisters,” about New York City’s Argosy Bookshop and the accomplished women who run it. Then there’s the “current sweetheart of liberal cable TV,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow; the author calls Maddow’s show “TV entertainment at its finest.” The second section has cultural takes, most with a political edge. Malcolm is struck by the “atmosphere of a cold war propaganda film” in the cable TV docuseries Sarah Palin’s Alaska. The author’s incisive article sorting out the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings’ hijinks is especially timely and scathing, while “Pandora’s Click” examines “email’s evil,” more “like a dangerous power tool” than “harmless kitchen appliance.” The last section covers literature and book reviews: Tolstoy, Constance Garnett’s translations (which Malcolm loves), the Bloomsbury Group, Ted Hughes, and a resuscitating assessment of Norman Podhoretz’s memoir Making It. Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels are a “literary confection of…gossamer deliciousness.”

Intelligent, savvy, and stylish literary journalism.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-27949-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018



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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