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Thirty-odd essays—culled from a dozen years of published encounters between master stylist Amis (Time's Arrow, 1991, etc.) and English-speaking literati and other contemporary phenomena—in a collection as well-honed and readable as it is wide-ranging. In the title piece, a 1981 interview with Nabokov's widow in Montreaux, she appears as a distinctive yet private personality, fully engaged in the business of bolstering her late husband's literary reputation. Similar pilgrimages are conducted to Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, for a chat with John Updike, to Monaco for an afternoon binge with the elusive Anthony Burgess, to V.S. Pritchett in London in order to marvel at his many decades of achievement, and to New York, in an unsuccessful search for Madonna on the publication of Sex. An amiable but keen-eyed raconteur, Amis reveals as much about himself as he does his subject, with impressions of the moment melded into insightful commentary on the author's work. The same is true when he turns to sports, whether accompanying a British soccer club led by owner Elton John on a junket to China, or witnessing the debut of 14-year-old Monica Seles at a tournament in Boca Raton. But his savage critical edge has its place here as well, and he skewers Madonna in her role as amoral media exploiter while painting an even grimmer portrait— from trips to the Pentagon and Washington think-tanks—of Reagan's doomsday gambit, the Star Wars program. Formulaic at times, and not always geared to an American reader, but still of much interest: excursions that will enhance Amis's reputation as a polished, peripatetic critic—a highly literate observer of the monuments and foibles of our age.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1994

ISBN: 0-517-59702-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1993

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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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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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