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A philosophical sketchbook, whose are of darkness and light swings somewhere between the silly and the sublime, between the poseur primping before his intellectual mirror and the truly troubled spirit trying to look within. It suggests Heraclitus: sentence fragments, speculative meanderings. Thus the classical artillery; the use of opposites ("polar nature of reality"), the metaphor of change ("Humanity on its raft. The raft on the endless ocean"); above all, the relation between the One (the aristos: isolated, independent seeker of inner wisdom and knowledge) and the Many (the unthinking, unfeeling Mass). Other points include Our Most Fashionable Problems: technology, oxistentialism, materialism, dehumanized art and sex, God and the Abyss. Clearly a Major Undertaking. With "labels": angora society (bad; today's acquisitive one), stoa society (good; sort of Shaw's Major Barbara utopianism), the Midas Situation, etc. Novelist Fowles, (author of the celebrated The Collector,) writes elegantly enough and has a fairly firm formal mind. His bent is towards the rational as against modernist irrationalism, but his raft, full of received ideas and hardly any primary experience, follows a confused course: he's a "planner" and existential, hieratic and humanistic. Here he is polemicising against what one takes to be the New Critics: what's taken as a criterion is not the meaning, but a skill in hinting at meanings". He concludes, "Any good computer will beat man at this." A crack which sums up his own voluminous tag-bag, biggest since The Outsider.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1964

ISBN: 0099755319

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1964

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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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