A sharp and lively book for fans and scholars, but it will have limited appeal among general readers.



Four female scholars reflect in “sociable cacophony” on Italian novelist Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet.

When English professors Chihaya, Emre, Hill, and Richards decided to exchange letters about the Neapolitan Quartet, they hoped that “each letter would build on the arguments of previous letters.” They posted their correspondence, which took place during the summer of 2015, on a blog dedicated to their unique experiment in collective critical inquiry. Their primary goal was “the cultivation of a distinct ethical subject: a reader who was deliberately oriented to the ongoing and pleasurable labor of criticism.” This book, which developed as an afterthought, gathers together those correspondences while offering one essay by each professor on different facets of the quartet. In the first section, readers are immediately immersed in a series of short exchanges among the professors that are as literarily engaged as they are engaging. The authors intermingle critical meditations on meaning, structure, and themes like friendship, motherhood, and authorship with observations on their own lives as women, mothers, lovers, and writers. Each author then takes ideas forged within this epistolary crucible and develops them into the essays that make up the second section of the book. Where Chihaya considers the pleasure of “rupture and dissolution” in Ferrante’s work, Hill examines the interplay of the fictive and the real. Richards explores what she calls Ferrante’s “counterfactual imagination” while speculating on the queer subtext of the quartet. Emre concludes the section with consideration of Ferrante’s elusiveness as a literary figure and her choice to remain known only by the words behind which she so often hides. While it is primarily Ferrante devotees who will find this book most intriguing, those interested in alternative modes of critical inquiry should take a look as well.

A sharp and lively book for fans and scholars, but it will have limited appeal among general readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-231-19457-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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 20, 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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