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In the best of these recent essays, Nobelist Brodsky achieves a unique synthesis of philosophical acumen and literary craftsmanship: considering the exigencies of exile together with those of poetry, reflecting on ethics and aesthetics. Like Less Than One (1986), Brodsky's previous collection of prose, this volume opens with a collage of memories from the author's youth in Leningrad. The theme this time, however, is intimations of America: radio transmissions, lovingly preserved lend-lease remnants (Brodsky focuses on the cult of empty meat tins), and exotic imports like the RCA records, with their famous dog-at-the-gramophone label, that Brodsky's father owned. The mode of reverie that Brodsky employs in this piece serves him well elsewhere in the volume. It reappears in a pastiche of travel dreams and in impassioned reflections on a Soviet stamp honoring British double agent Kim Philby. Too often, however, Brodsky takes on an expository tone that clashes with the essentially elliptical quality of his best insights. Two commencement addresses find him at his best and worst. Whereas Brodsky offers Dartmouth graduates wise words on the unlikely topic of boredom's importance, an audience at Ann Arbor, Mich., receives a hodgepodge of bromides like ``try not to set too much store by politicians.'' Other low points include an aimless account of a decadent writer's junket to Rio and a sententious open letter to V†clav Havel. But a sterling appreciation of Thomas Hardy's subtle poetry more than compensates. Much of Brodsky's best commentary on modern poetry and politics comes indirectly, in imaginative essays devoted to classical figures: Clio, the Muse of history; Horace, the Roman man of letters; and Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor. Brodsky repeatedly cites Frost's line: ``The best way out is always through.'' At his most successful, however, he seems to be following another adage: Emily Dickinson's advice to ``tell all the Truth but tell it slant.''

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-23415-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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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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