WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT BOOKS

THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF READING

Readers who enjoy books about books will find much to like here.

Books are not dead. That’s the good news in this set of bookish essays.

It wasn’t long ago, writes Rutgers Book Initiative founding director Price (How To Do Things With Books in Victorian Britain, 2012, etc.), that writers such as Sven Birkerts and Robert Coover were remarking, and sometimes lamenting, the supposed decline of the book in favor of other technologies—the computer, the e-reader, etc. In fact, reading physical books is on the rise, and in December 2018, holiday shoppers found several popular titles on back order for “that most old-fashioned of crises: a paper shortage.” The widespread availability of digital devices doesn’t seem to have put much of a dent in the market for physical books, though new technologies have certainly affected reading in the past—most notably, Price archly observes, TV. What has really cut into reading time, she adds, is the in-between time we used to devote to reading books and newspapers, the time spent on bus-stop benches or commuter trains, time now so often given to navigating the many iterations of social media. Books as objects seem safe, then, though mysteries still surround them: Those data crunchers who use electronic tools to see what books people are looking at most still can’t answer why we’re looking at them. As Price writes, in a nice turn, “no matter how many keystrokes you track and blinks you time, others’ reading remains as hard to peer into as others’ hearts.” The essays suggest more than form a single coherent argument about the book today, but Price’s ideas that books are a communal thing and that reading them, in at least one sense, is a profoundly social act are pleasing even if libraries are now different from our childhood memories and if those books come in many forms besides between covers.

Readers who enjoy books about books will find much to like here.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-465-04268-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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