Some may find the fragmentary, digressive structure of Zambreno’s book off-putting and repetitious, but it does create a...

SCREEN TESTS

STORIES AND OTHER WRITING

A collage of enticing reflections on literature, movies, art, and people.

Throughout this eclectic mix of reflective, short “stories” (some very short) and a few previously published essays, Zambreno (Creative Writing/Columbia Univ. and Sarah Lawrence Coll.; Appendix Project: Talks and Essays, 2019, etc.) weaves elements of her autobiography. She writes about her friends, parents, and dog with as much honesty and courage as she inflicts upon herself, her clothes, and her likes and dislikes. These bits and pieces of paragraphs, more like snapshots or stills than screen tests, spin around like floating objects on an Alexander Calder mobile precariously tied together with ideas and images. Zambreno realizes her writing “is about conjuring up and murdering the girl I was and have allowed myself to become.” Throughout, she demonstrates that she is an intense observer. Whether examining Warhol’s Marilyn paintings or the Barbara Loden film Wanda, the author’s gaze, like photographer Anne Collier’s camera, is “obsessive, sad, sensitive, witty.” The book is highly referential. Zambreno celebrates “old Hollywood and glamour” and some of her favorite actresses—e.g., Tallulah Bankhead and Louise Brooks—and directors, including Abbas Kiarostami and Agnès Varda. The author also discusses philosophers, especially Wittgenstein and Blanchot, and many authors. Zambreno loves the “brilliance and intensity (even wrongness)” of Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse as well as Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment: “I inhaled the book, which I heard happens when you read…Ferrante—the books are just that good.” From Gertrude Stein and Kate Chopin to Jean Rhys and Mary Gaitskill, that narrative, with its range of topics and moods, evokes a whiff of Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet.

Some may find the fragmentary, digressive structure of Zambreno’s book off-putting and repetitious, but it does create a syncopated rhythm that is endearing and catchy when taken in small doses.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239204-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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NUTCRACKER

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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IN MY PLACE

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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