A commendable essay collection by one of the leading practitioners of the form.

A collection of essays, some journalistic, some critical, some memoiristic, all marked by the author’s distinct intelligence.

In “Mark My Words. Maybe.” an essay not included here, Jamison (Director, Graduate Nonfiction Program/Columbia Univ.; The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, 2018, etc.) recounts getting Roman playwright Terence’s quotation Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto ("I am human, nothing human is alien to me") tattooed on her arm. That apothegm, which also served as the epigraph to her first collection, The Empathy Exams (2014), is put to the test in her latest book. Whether encountering a boy in a wheelchair in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, or a pushy woman on a layover in Houston, the author wonders at the limits of empathy. In “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order To Live Again,” she recounts her interview with a man who claimed he was “not a gun nut” even as he handled two guns and left “a collection of bullets spread across his comforter” for her to find: “Had I been foolishly unwilling to acknowledge that some people were alien to me? Did I need to identify with all the gun-loving men of this world? Was it naive or even ethically irresponsible to believe I should find common ground with everyone, or that it was even possible?” Jamison’s other main intellectual concern is the exploitative role of the journalist. In “Maximum Exposure,” she offers a sympathetic portrait of the photographer Annie Appel, who must ask her subjects, “Can I take this moment of your life and make my art from it?” The common cause she finds with the journalistic skepticism of Janet Malcolm and James Agee is odd, though, considering how many of her essays begin as reporting. Jamison thinks and writes so elegantly, the subjects that serve as many of her jumping-off points risk feeling superfluous to the real business of her essaying. Still, as with nearly all of her writing, this one is well worth reading.

A commendable essay collection by one of the leading practitioners of the form.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-25963-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019



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

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