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“Love. Friendship. Art. Work. These are my values,” Oates says. Watching her juggle them in these replete pages is a...

Tensions between public image and private self are engagingly acknowledged and analyzed in illuminating excerpts from journals begun during the second decade of this prolific author’s remarkable career.

Their emphases are predictable: the flood of writing Oates produced then and now (The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense, 2007, etc.); speculations about the nature of the artistic process and the ways in which art has shaped her character and personality; family, friends and colleagues whose empathy and affection anchor her in a vividly experienced, evidently cherished everyday world. Readers who perceive Oates as a workaholic automaton may be surprised to encounter an author who, though formidably successful even this early in her career, felt unworthy of the acclaim lavished on her. Oates waxes rhapsodic about the sustaining pleasures of marriage (to her colleague and soul mate Raymond Smith), domestic routine (she’s a conscientious if unadventurous cook and hostess), her teaching duties and burgeoning friendships with such notable contemporaries as John Updike, Gail Godwin, the late John Gardner and Susan Sontag, Anne Tyler, even the eternally prickly Norman Mailer. It’s nice to know that she derives so much pleasure from teaching Alice in Wonderland to her Princeton students and from the experience of playing the piano and listening to her beloved Chopin. Naturally, she also chronicles her work: stories, poems, essays and reviews completed almost daily (or so it seems); wearying searches for appropriate form and rhetoric for the ambitious novels (The Assassins, Son of the Morning and Angel of Light) that many critics consider her weakest work; and a somewhat surprising commitment to reviving traditional narrative genres in her Gothic Quintet, which includes Bellefleur, A Bloodsmoor Romance and The Crosswicks Horror, the last-named long since completed but as yet unpublished.

“Love. Friendship. Art. Work. These are my values,” Oates says. Watching her juggle them in these replete pages is a stimulating experience.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-122798-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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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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