Emulating the breadth characteristic of the epic theater, Fuegi (Germanic & Slavic Lit./Univ. of Maryland) determines that Brecht's theater wasn't really Brecht's theater after all and that Brecht himself, that rather heroic figure of 20th-century drama, was, in fact, a pig of a human being. A misogynist, a liar, and a thief, Bertolt Brecht used and misused people on all sides. Possessed of mesmeric powers that the author compares to those of Hitler, Brecht had no difficulty seducing any number of men and women who would meet his literary as well as his sexual needs. In time, he produced five children by as many women and saw at least a half dozen more offspring aborted. A good deal of his energy seems to have been spent juggling multiple relationships, which Fuegi recounts in great detail to somewhat numbing effect. The most fascinating segments of this hefty volume are those that tell the stories behind Brecht's most famous works. The Threepenny Opera emerges as primarily the work of Elizabeth Hauptmann (Brecht's long-term sometime lover) and Kurt Weill, with final touches by Brecht, all fused together during a volatile journey toward opening night. Similarly, Mother Courage was the product of the conflicting voices of Brecht and Margrete Steffin (another lover), a combination that Fuegi openly admires as resulting in a resonance and insight that neither writer could have accomplished alone. In any case, such revelations inspire the reader to return to the plays themselves for reexamination. Finally, these theatrical tales are set against the political backdrop of the times: the rise of Hitler (whom we meet as an unemployed scenic designer) and encounters with the watchful eyes of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and the HUAC. A painstakingly researched, if sometimes ploddingly written, work that effectively weaves together the disparate threads that went into the theater we equate with the name Brecht.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8021-1529-2

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1994



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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