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Lectures, introductions, symposium contributions, and other miscellaneous pieces (written on Friday mornings)—most of which end up as arguments for Barth's "postmodernist" approach to fiction, with extensive references to his own work (especially the numbing LETTERS). "The novelist is not finally a spectator, an imitator, or a purger of the public psyche, but a maker of universes: a demiurge. At least a semidemiurge." Likewise, "Whatever else it is about, great literature is almost always also about itself." Thus, Barth applauds the celebration of virtuosity for its own sake and the device of stories-within-stories-within-stories (which he explores to comical excess); he's interested in mythic patterns, with Eastern and ancient narrative forms; he praises Borges, Garda Marquez, and late Calvino. And, in a central 1979 essay, "The Literature of Replenishment," he takes on professors Gerald Graft and Robert Alter, appraises "modernism," deplores the school-of-thought that "rushes back into the arms of nineteenth century middle-class realism," and comes up with "a worthy program" for postmodernist fiction: the "synthesis or transcension of these antitheses, which may be summed up as pre-modernist and modernist modes of writing." Unfortunately, though some of this theory sounds plausible and heartening, when Barth turns to specifics (usually in discussing his own work), postmodernism most often seems academic, mannered, show-offy, self-involved. And though the style in many of these essays (and especially in Barth's mini-introductions) is jazzy and genial, the sameness of the subject-matter throughout becomes enervating, with only sporadic relief from Barth's whimsical approach ("the important subject of dippy verses as a legitimate contaminant of novels") to serious esthetic issues. Primarily for those involved in the philosophy-of-fiction quarrels, then, along with passionate fans of Barth's novels and stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 1984

ISBN: 0801855578

Page Count: -

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1984

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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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