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Like The Friday Book (1984), a collection of eclectic and irregularly insightful essays by the noted novelist—an admixture of reminiscence, manifesto, and review. Barth devotes one day a week to writing essay-lectures on such favorite topics as literary forms, traditions, and styles; the Chesapeake Bay area; his own books; or all those subjects at once in "a kind of thinking out loud [or] teaching oneself." Throughout these discursive pieces, the writer links his ideas loosely with his literary touchstones: Scheherazade, Don Quixote, Borges, Garcia Marquez, and the inconclusive, contested definiendum "postmodernism." His professionally well told memoirs of his second wife's profession ("Teacher") and his encounters with Borges are shot through with both incidental allusions and in-depth references, as are his idiosyncratic critical pieces, ranging from the aesthetic merits of the Chesapeake local arts and crafts to a concentrated reading of "Jack and Jill" and a consideration of Poe's gruesome genre effects in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. '4' Lectures: The Stuttgart Seminars on Postmodernism, Chaos Theory, and the Romantic Arabesque'' and a bravura triad on minimalism, maximalism, and the short story skillfully interweave all the sources and concerns of Barth's shorter, unrelated essays. Some of his comparisons are highly inventive (for example, the similarities among postmodernist referentialism, chaotic feedback, and the repetitive patterns of Persian carpets, together with their parallels in literature), but they tend to lack, or avoid, a conclusion. If this noncommittal reflex handicaps the writer's scrappy mini-manifestos against creative writing programs and realism ("Very Like an Elephant"), it keeps his discussions of storytelling clear and effective. A dilettante par excellence, Barth has read intelligently and indiscriminately enough to have something interesting to say at almost any time.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 1995

ISBN: 0-316-08324-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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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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