Half of the writers here will cringe when they read their words in 20 years, but the rest provide some humdinging stuff, as...

A handful of young(ish) writers map their responses to J.D. Salinger’s work in essays that range from loose and funny to remarkably uptight, gathered by Poughkeepsie Review founding editor Kotzen and novelist Beller (The Sleep-Over Artist, 2000, etc.).

Slice him this way or that, Salinger has been an enormous influence on American literature. Kotzen and Beller asked 14 writers to consider their reactions to his writing, and the result is this jangle of pieces that knock about in Salingerland, for better or worse. Walter Kirn suggests that great books fade into the background while triggering self-centered memories, and if his writing-school essay is any measure of that indulgence, then The Catcher in the Rye is a very great book indeed. Emma Forrest administers Salinger the defibrillator—“Salinger is the literary equivalent of a pedophile: the child’s world equals good and all adults are fake and phoney. That’s how a pervert thinks”—and then turns it on herself: “I don't think that people who are phoney are necessarily a bad thing,” embarrassingly invoking Vonnegut to support her contention. Lucinda Rosenfeld is devilishly perceptive and fast to draw a sleeve across the windpipe, while noting that “brilliant writing tends to steam-roll everything in its path.” And Karen Bender is more specific in seeing “how characters disappeared into their gestures, dialogue, and how Salinger’s breath was transformed into perception, scene, craft.” Jane Mendelsohn shifts between some bedrock material, recognizing in Salinger kids’ first encounter with “two kinds of truth and that negotiating between them marks the beginning of the end of childhood,” and some really fruity stuff, like Catcher isn’t about understanding but rather “all about death.”

Half of the writers here will cringe when they read their words in 20 years, but the rest provide some humdinging stuff, as much tortured fun as their subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7679-0799-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001



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

Close Quickview