These posthumous memoirs of novelist and journalist Herbst (1892-1969) alternate between dreamy recollection and thoughtful questioning of literary and political fashions. Herbst begins with tales of her pre-WW I childhood in Iowa, where she is raised by a mother who wonders hopefully whether young Josephine will grow up to be a lawyer and by a father who says as she leaves home for New York, ``Jo, I don't know what you're after, but I wish you all the luck in the world.'' In New York, Paris, and other centers of the cutting edge she is part of a literary circle that includes Katherine Anne Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Nathanael West, and others, living an enviable life of conversation and reading and stopping occasionally to wonder whether contempt for ``the lovely and the beautiful'' is becoming too popular. Her strongest contempt is for rigid ideologies. At a writers' conference in Moscow, she becomes disaffected from the literary figures whose praise for proletariat literature is a thinly veiled speech of self-promotion, and her refusal to paint the Spanish Civil War in black and white paralyzes her and keeps her silent about her trip for the next 30 years. Her questioning doesn't keep her from sentimentalizing the political debates of the time, but her description of sitting in an Italian-owned diner as Sacco and Vanzetti are executed is one of the work's memorable moments. Herbst convinces us that she was in the eye of the storm of the era that ``opened the world to its literary young on a scale never before ventured and not equaled since.''

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016512-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991



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

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