A mostly depressing assemblage.



A wearisome compilation of New Yorker profiles, written by a scion who ought to know better.

What strange curse has afflicted the New Yorker these past 30 years? What miasma wafts in its offices that transforms the work of John Lahr, son of Bert Lahr and surely an inheritor of at least a small degree of that great man’s wit, into soggy, leaden, partisan prose? Lahr seems drawn to the more unpleasant people in the arts, and the adorations in his profiles of them are inversely proportionate to their boorishness. This results in hagiographic treatments of David Mamet, Woody Allen, Roseanne, or the very talkative Arthur Miller. He quotes Miller on Willy Loman’s failure in Death of a Salesman. “It’s the most brutal way of looking at life that one can imagine, because it discards anyone who doesn’t measure up. It wants to destroy them. It’s been going on since Puritan times. That God rewards those who deserve it.” In his introduction, Lahr claims to begin work on his profiles with “about fifteen hundred pages of transcribed interviews, which form the backbone of the piece.” In the case of the Miller interview, that number is surely a gross undercount, but when it comes to one of Lahr’s few likable subjects, Bob Hope, you have to wonder if the two even exchanged postcards. Hope comes across as one of his few agreeable subjects. Perhaps that is why Lahr manages to rise a little bit from his heavy-handed style in order to deliver a trashing of a man whose only sins seem to be the hiring of joke writers (as most comedians do), self-deprecation, and an unabashed patriotism for his adopted country. (Hope was English-born.) Lahr is kinder in his profile of Irving Berlin, but he hastens to reassure us that the wholesale PC revisions of the book in the current Broadway revival of Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun “completely remove the script’s bad odor.”

A mostly depressing assemblage.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2000

ISBN: 1-58567-062-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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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 20, 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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