A pleasant whiff of nostalgia for old libraries and older books, gently held and translated for us by a man who loves them.



A former professor and distinguished literary critic who will reach his 100th birthday this year offers a collection of essays and speeches dealing with the art of poetry and the nature of criticism.

A founding editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Abrams (Doing Things With Texts: Essays in Criticism and Critical Theory, 1989, etc.) shows he remains both in firm command of his craft and a sturdy defender of the traditional views of literature that the author-absent New Criticism threatened to sweep away. Here, for example, is a lengthy, cogent argument about Wordsworth’s meaning of the line, “A slumber did my spirit seal.” Was the poet writing another Dead Lucy poem? Or was the spirit entombed? Another piece deals with, and generally dismisses, the idea of the removal of the author’s biography and intent from literary criticism. Abrams argues for a criticism that recognizes a literature “composed by a human being, for human beings, and about human beings and matters of human concern.” The author emphasizes this theme throughout the collection. The title essay deals with the physical/physiological aspects of reading a poem aloud—the ways that poets move our tongues in our mouths to affect the effects and meanings of the words. Abrams also includes pieces about the evolving view of nature in our literature, a long piece about Kant and art that alludes to everyone from Plato to Poe and beyond, an essay about the journey in Western literature (from the Bible to Eliot), and a crisp tribute to critic William Hazlitt. Abrams recognizes that Hazlitt worked from the individual sentence forward—seeing where each sentence would lead him before composing the next.

A pleasant whiff of nostalgia for old libraries and older books, gently held and translated for us by a man who loves them.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-05830-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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 20, 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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