Inconsistent but filled with its share of Ames classics.

A grab bag of fact and fiction from Ames (The Alcoholic, 2008, etc.), shot through with his trademark self-loathing.

The author’s journalism proves that hating yourself is a smart strategy when it comes to celebrity profiles. By proudly broadcasting his shortcomings—too insecure, too unhip, too drunk—he not only does the required job of making stars like Lenny Kravitz and Marilyn Manson look good in Spin, but he gets his subjects to voice their own insecurities in ways they likely wouldn’t with more straight-laced reporters. Still, Ames clearly prefers those outside the limelight, and he includes some crisp, funny portraits of subcultures like a goth festival and a club dedicated to corduroy. Sex is his preferred theme, and he earns plenty of comic mileage following hipsters prowling New York’s Meatpacking District, or voicing his own neuroses, sometimes in disarming detail. (One explicit yet wryly tender piece describes his experience attending a class on improving his bedroom technique.) Some of the short stories display a sketched-out, simplistic approach to tenuous sexual connections, and at its most tedious the book includes excerpts from Ames’ college diaries. Two pieces of fiction shine, however. The narrator of “A Walk Home” relates how he was shadowed by muggers while walking to his Brooklyn home, and Ames tartly captures the mess of thoughts shuttling through his mind—race relations, a busted romance, New York parking rules—before his act of self defense. The opening story, “Bored to Death,” which is being adapted as a TV show for HBO, follows an insecure author who decides to sell himself as a private eye on Craigslist. Ames deliberately riffs on classic noir—the hero carries a copy of David Goodis’s Black Friday with him—and the increasingly visceral violence not only makes for a powerful story, it exposes, in an Ames-ian way, how crime stories offer a kind of wish fulfillment for the angst-ridden writer.

Inconsistent but filled with its share of Ames classics.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0233-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009



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

Close Quickview