Mailer accepts a big assignment to the American mainstream and finds himself at a loss. Emotionally and politically vacant after a fruitless mayoral campaign, his fourth marriage in decline, as he explains, he is obliged to write up the 1969 moon shot from its Houston NASA base, where he lacks opportunity for the ego interaction and participatory observation which has fueled him in the past. He tries to make up for these disabilities by playing with negations, familiar ones: the missing lunar poetry and misfired drama of science ("the real explorations were not made," e.g. "what puncture might mean in space") and of course the anticlimax of it all, lacking "some joy, some outrageous sense of adventure. . . . " Compensatory streaks of magic, death, astrology and devils are conjured up, and Mailer's confrontation as delegate from the realm of raucous sensibility with the anaemic rigors of aerospace Waspdom is played to the hilt. Even in his depressed state Mailer is too intelligent and too self-intrusive to simply camp it up. But instead of tire mock epic one might expect, he produces epic self-parody as he embroiders commonplace formulations of the significance of Apollo 11: "men . . . would certainly destroy themselves if they did not have a game of gargantuan dimensions for diversion. . . a spend-spree of resources, a sublimation, yes, the very word, a sublimation of aggressive and intolerably inhuman desires, . . ." and so forth. These musings are interspersed with reams of very straight technical description (lunar module construction, computer overload, the impossibility of using a real rendezvous radar in the simulator), plus conscientious physiognomies of the astronauts, as if Mailer in the absence of his daimon endeavored to supply at least a big book for his towering (if less, he says, than the fabled $1 million) fee. The strains show in his style: dribs of forced bawdiness, drabs of mock-Faulkner writtenness, a regrettably perseverant third-person self-reference as "Aquarius," and a staggering number of "not unlike"s, "little more than"s, "all but"s and "nearly"s. It's a factitious book and Mailer seems to know it. An excerpt appeared in Life magazine.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1970

ISBN: 0330026100

Page Count: 429

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1970



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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