SELECTED NON-FICTION

Familiar essays and lectures by the great Argentine fantasist, plus many hitherto uncollected pieces. Borges (1899—1986) first appeared on the American scene in 1962, when his Ficciones abruptly made it plain that a major foreign writer had escaped our attention for quite a while. Since then, our publishing houses have been briskly making up for lost time, issuing a wide variety of anthologies and collections. This one, honoring the author’s centenary, comprises no fewer than 150 separate nonfiction pieces: essays, lectures, book and movie reviews, magazine articles, journalistic commentary, prologues to Spanish translations of books from other languages. This is a lot of Borges, and the volume’s bulk runs counter to the spirit of his creativity. A modest and always fastidious writer, he cultivated short forms with great success; consequently, to have so much of his occasional writing deposited in one clump may not have been to his taste. Still, it’s good to reread familiar pieces and discover a few new ones. Curiously, the expanded Borges does not open new vistas on this writer. Instead, it serves to confirm that his imagination circled back continually and always fruitfully to topics and figures that preoccupied him: De Quincey, The Arabian Nights, Chesterton, Schopenhauer, the Kabbalah, Nietzsche, Argentine identity, Buddhism, and the idea, variously ramified, of infinity. His characteristic pose is that of slightly pedantic bookishness, as in this opening: “I read, a few days ago, that the man who ordered the building of the almost infinite Chinese Wall was that first Emperor, Shih Huang Ti, who also decreed the burning of all books that had been written before his time.” Apart from a little new information about this or that, what we always come away with is a deepened understanding of how passionate and rich the literary life can be. Fresh translations, useful and unintrusive notes (editor Weinberger has also translated the poetry of Octavio Paz), several new pieces of writing, but not a leap into an altered vision of Borges. (First serial to Grand Street)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-84947-2

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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NUTCRACKER

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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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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