Urbane, witty pieces by a writer worth reviving.

Elegant essays by a self-described dilettante.

Known for “his light ironic touch,” deft parodies and caricatures, and sly observations about literature, art, and, simply, taste, Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) was among the most prominent English essayists. Though praised as a gifted stylist, he considered himself a minor figure, “what obituary notices call ‘an interesting link with the past.’ ” Editor Lopate (Director, Nonfiction Writing/Columbia Univ.; Portrait Inside My Head, 2013, etc.), however, sees in the precision and cadence of Beerbohm’s prose much to be admired, amply exemplified by the pieces he gathers, representing Beerbohm’s observations of British character and culture from 1896 to 1946. In an essay on the disappointing quality of oratory at the House of Commons, for example, Beerbohm remarks laconically that among 670 men elected by the British public, no one should expect “a very high average of mental capacity.” He recalls his contemporaries: Aubrey Beardsley; the “legendary” Swinburne, “sole kin to the phoenix”; and his older half brother, Herbert, a flamboyant actor. Accompanying him on an American tour, he noted that Herbert loved traveling, “instantly responsive” to “the magic of New York….He was not the kind of tourist who takes a homemade tuning-fork about with him and condemns the discords.” Beerbohm was not as social, never a perfect guest, but “slightly to the churlish side….And, though I always liked to be invited anywhere, I very often preferred to stay at home.” Overcome with envy of another writer, he threw her novel into “the yawning crimson jaws” of a fireplace, frustrated by how slowly it burned. He also comments dryly on hero worship: “It is a wholesome exercise which we ought to all take, now and again. Only, let us not strain ourselves by overdoing it.”

Urbane, witty pieces by a writer worth reviving.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59017-828-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015



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