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Fussell (Bad, 1991, etc.) certainly has come a long way from his early work as a conventional literary scholar. This breezy account of Kingsley Amis's career smartly adopts its subject's "no-nonsense, can-the-bullshit tone." More important, Fussell understands the guiding principles that link all of Amis's work as critic, poet, anthologist, restaurant reviewer, and, of course, novelist. Primarily about Amis's nonfiction writing, Fussell's jaunty and anecdotal study establishes Amis as a consummate man of letters, skilled in a variety of genres. Fussell sees beyond the popular notion of Amis as a mean-spirited reactionary, though he's still troubled by Amis's illiberal opinions. A "cultural democrat," Amis values honesty, civility, and lack of pretense. He distrusts egotists and is suspicious of most literary modernism, a predilection he shares with his college chum and compatriot Philip Larkin. Trained as a teacher of literature, Amis grew disillusioned with academic approaches to texts, preferring to take his case directly to common readers through the popular press. In the '80s, he even edited a poetry column for the tabloid Daily Mirror. If Amis seems ungenerous to American literature, says Fussell, it's only for its lack of modesty (in pursuit of "the masterpiece") and its cult of authenticity. Amis's antimodern aesthetic emerges fully in his literary criticism — celebrations of plain-speaking poets such as Tennyson, Kipling, and Housman — and in his work as an anthologist. As a poet, Amis, like Larkin, shook off the early Auden influence for a more demotic idiom and a more accessible style. Fussell, who counts Amis an acquaintance of some 40 years, indulges his own anglophilia at times, affecting British slang and extolling what he sees as their superior wit. Despite the oddities in diction and tone, Fussell is the perfect match for his subject — witty, thoughtful, brief, and, not least of it, accurate.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-508736-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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 19, 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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