Lots of erudition and bloody (right-ish) fun.


A curmudgeonly cultural critic collects a potpourri of his pieces from the past 30 years, most from Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

Prolific essayist, biographer and novelist Epstein (Essays in Biography, 2012, etc.) never leaves readers wondering about much. He delivers fierce punches to the guts of all sorts here: writers he doesn’t care for (Updike, Mailer, Morrison, Vidal, Roth, Rich—both Frank and Adrienne), practices he abhors in higher education (the death of the liberal arts, emphases on feminism and Marxism and various other -isms in the literature curriculum), publications he doesn’t like (the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review), child-rearing practices he disdains (contained in a wild essay called “The Kindergarchy: Every Child a Dauphin”), poetry he doesn’t like and sentences he hates. Such a collection inevitably leads to some repetition, so readers hear a few times about his college days (the University of Illinois, his transfer to the University of Chicago), his early days of being a liberal, his peacetime service in the military and his conversion to conservatism—a transformation occasioned in major part by the excesses of the 1960s and ’70s. Epstein does not often communicate any sense of uncertainty; he dispenses opinions and decisions with all the conviction of a judge on an afternoon TV show. Things are so, he seems to say, because I declare them so. Still, his pieces inevitably entertain as well as educate—and/or annoy). He eviscerates Paul Goodman, some colleagues at Northwestern University (where he taught for decades), Maya Angelou and Spike Lee, and he declares that Dreiser and Cather surpass any subsequent American novelists. He also blasts the National Endowment for the Arts (he served the agency for a bit).

Lots of erudition and bloody (right-ish) fun.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60419-078-6

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Axios Press

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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