Oates, in her introduction, defines the essay, a  la Randall Jarrell, as "prose works of certain lengths that have many more things right about them than wrong" Montaigne, Hazlitt, Mandelstam would roll in their graves! Only Richard Rodriguez's "Late Victorians"—domestic architecture as sexuality in gay San Francisco—brings a remarkable voice to bear on an idea worthy of the great essay masters. From most everybody else here, the essay seems to he something that (1) can't quite he fiction and (2) must he too long (or, if short, smug). Gerald Early's intriguing piece about black female self-image overshoots the runway and travels on and on and on...forever. Likewise Mark Rudman's at first genial piece about walking. Ditto pieces by Reg Saner, Jane Tompkins, Garrett Hongo. On the short, smug side, Elizabeth Hardwick's impressions of New York's desuetude must he the most pretentious thing she's ever written, Gretel Ehrlich's contribution the same. Intellectual and stylistic mediocrity is the province here of Woody Allen, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Frank Conroy, Dorien Rosa, Amy Tan, and Joy Williams. A few modest personal pieces do hold their own, powered by self-analysis—by Diana Hume George, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Marianna De Marco Torgovnick; and Margaret Atwood's "The Female Body" is vinegary fun. Overall, though, not the essay's finest outing.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1991

ISBN: 0-89919-929-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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