Lively essays bound to stimulate debate among readers of global literature.

The first of a proposed two-volume collection of essays from one of America’s most ingenious short story writers.

The goal of these essays, writes Davis (Can’t and Won’t: Stories, 2014, etc.), is to “reflect, to some extent, two of the main occupations of my life—writing and translating.” Included here are pieces that range from an appreciation of authors such as Samuel Beckett, Grace Paley, and Franz Kafka, whose works inspired the extremely short stories for which Davis is most celebrated, to essays that reflect her thoughts on the work of translation. Among the latter are essays on John Ashbery’s translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations, in which she praises Ashbery’s approach “to stay close to the original, following the line of the sentence, retaining the order of ideas and images, reproducing even eccentric or inconsistent punctuation”—not surprising, given that she, too, has been praised (and criticized) for the same approach to translation. Many of the authors Davis explores are French, from famous names such as Proust and Stendahl to comparatively obscure writers such as Maurice Blanchot and Michel Leiris, author of the multivolume “autobiographical essay” The Rules of the Game. Essays on visual artists such as Joan Mitchell and Joseph Cornell are less insightful than the pieces on literature, and some essays rely so heavily on excerpts from other writers’ works that it feels like Davis is showcasing their opinions rather than putting forth her own. However, at her best, she’s an astute critic, as when, in analyzing early works by Thomas Pynchon, she notes his tendency to go “beyond eloquence to a kind of hyper-eloquence that becomes a display of power over language itself that perhaps borders on control by coercion,” or when she writes of poet Rae Armantrout, “under the lens she turns on everything, the refractive lens, a bland world loses its blandness….I see more clearly because of the way she sees.”

Lively essays bound to stimulate debate among readers of global literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-14885-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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