A capable collection of writing that continually reviews itself.

The latest collection from a professor who attempts to renew and extend the legacy of the personal essay.

Among Madden’s credits are his co-editorship of After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays (2015), in which the contributors honored their debt to the essayist who established the form in the 16th century. In one of the shorter essays here, the author makes offhand mention of that project, describing how he was thwarted in his attempts to visit Montaigne’s tower and library because the site was closed on the day he made his pilgrimage. His plea that he “was a disciple of Montaigne” fell on deaf ears, and he was forced to remain outside, wandering the grounds, which he later decided had been all to the good, at least for the purpose of the resulting essay: “There’s something appropriate about being stymied in an essayistic quest, because essays were never about completing things; they distrust the very notion of tidy endings. Much better, it seems to me now, that I missed the dusty tower and instead strolled the grounds with the gardener, who, like the Great Man he and I serve, contains within him the entire human condition.” And so it goes with these essays, which even the essayist suggests are arbitrary in their organization and inconsequential in their purpose yet contain many elements of the human condition. Madden writes a lot about writing and thinking, challenging readers to discover just what any of these pieces is really about. In “Freewill,” which invokes the wisdom of the rock band Rush, the author suggests to readers that “there is no whole to be comprehended, no essential destination,” and later asks, “Where was I going with all this? I’m not sure.” Throughout, the writing is playful and marked by humility, with Madden often inviting readers—and other writers—into the narrative.

A capable collection of writing that continually reviews itself.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4962-0244-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020



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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