Thirty Auster essays, reviews, prefaces, and interviews, nearly all of which have been previously published in small literary magazines or The New York Review of Books. Many of these fugitive pieces predate Auster's successful career as a novelist (Leviathan, p. 732, etc.). In fact, they chart the transition he made from being a poet to becoming one of the increasingly well-known fictional voices of our time. The essays often address notions that animate the fiction: How do you speak about the unspeakable? How does the artist see while remaining invisible? How does art re-create the body of its creator? And, most importantly, why is modern art at its best all about failure and risk? Auster, whose main influences are Beckett and Kafka, introduces and examines writers whose work often embodies these themes—from Knut Hamsun's courtship of failure to Laura Riding's abandonment of poetry. A series of essays on the Objectivist poets (Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi) forms a clear explanation of their post-Imagist aesthetic. Like Beckett characters, Auster's favorite writers pursue an art of survival—recognizing, but not acquiescing to, the absurd. Edmond Jabes deconstructs the book; Georges Perec combines literary play with human compassion; and Giuseppe Ungaretti continually confronts his mortality. Auster's historical command of modern French poetry is impressive. And his own aesthetic values are admirable—he takes a clear and levelheaded approach to writers often considered difficult and obscure. Auster's "eccentric and peculiar tastes" cohere, in these critical pieces, into something much more than his modest claim that he's "simply one writer trying to talk about others.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 1992

ISBN: 0140267506

Page Count: 312

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992



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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