Perspicacious, penetrating, and instructive.

An erudite and opinionated critic offers up a taster of tantalizing essays.

Former New Yorker editor and Knopf editor-in-chief Gottlieb (Avid Reader: A Life, 2016, etc.), now approaching 90, is still keeping his writing fingers busy in the book world. This collection of previously published essays, mostly book reviews from the New York Review of Books written over the past 10 years, is divided into six sections: Lives, Letters, Music, Dance, Movies, and Observing Dance (notices about dance performances published in the New York Observer). As a book publisher for 60 years and a Farrar, Straus and Giroux author, Gottlieb assesses Boris Kachka’s Hothouse, a history of the publisher. Although the book is a “vigorous and diverting trot…frequently slapdash and overwrought,” it’s a “valuable effort” about a press that has “maintained an amazingly consistent level of quality.” Having penned biographies of George Balanchine and Sarah Bernhardt, Gottlieb is quite adept writing about music and dance. An essay on Clive Davis, the “mogul of moguls of pop music,” easily rests beside the author’s discussions of the “maestro,” Arturo Toscanini, whom Gottlieb puts in the same category with Einstein and Picasso. Conductor Leonard Bernstein, whom Gottlieb worked with as an author, is simultaneously “legendary” and “over-the-top.” The author’s “In the Mood for Love” is a sprightly assessment of romance novels: “Its readership is vast, its satisfactions apparently limitless, its profitability incontestable. And where’s the harm?” He rescues Ivan Goncharov’s 1859 novel Oblomov, about a man who never gets out of bed, and waxes euphoric over Irishman Sebastian Barry’s “luminous” novels. Gottlieb takes on an eclectic mix of subjects: Wilkie Collins, Diana Cooper, John Wilkes Booth, Mary Astor, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Parker, Esther Williams, Lorenz Hart, Maya Plisetskaya, Frank Sinatra, the “awful” film Black Swan, Setsuko Hara, an “actress like no other,” and Thomas Wolfe, who “has gone over the cultural cliff.”

Perspicacious, penetrating, and instructive.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-21991-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018



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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