Another volume of Beauvoir’s correspondence to lay on the shelf beside Letters to Sartre (1991), this time featuring letters written to a most unlikely lover, the American novelist Nelson Algren. It would be hard to imagine two more discrepant writers (or temperaments) than Beauvoir and Algren, but when they met while she was touring the US in 1947, it was love at first sight. Neither knew much about the other when they were introduced in Algren’s beloved Chicago, but before she returned to Paris, they spent two frenzied weeks together in New York, connecting on an intensely visceral level. Beauvoir often referred to him as “my husband.” She wrote to him in English, sometimes berating him for his stubborn refusal to learn French. The letters in this volume offer a view of the existentialist and the French literary elite of the late ’40s and ’50s as Beauvoir gives Algren a Cook’s tour of her daily life. Readers glimpse the torrid political atmosphere in Paris during the Indochina conflict, with Sartre the recipient of death threats, and of the ruffian behavior of such literary lights as Arthur Koestler, depicted by de Beauvoir as belligerently anticommunist when drunk, apologetic but self-absorbed when sober. Felicities are many in this hefty compendium, ranging from Beauvoir’s encounter with “this ridiculous thing which is called Truman Capote” to an encomium on flying (“I think when you are at a high pitch of emotion, it is the only way of traveling which fits with your own heart”). Her occasionally fractured English is not without charm, but too much of the book consists of repetitively girlish affirmations of love that are odd coming from such a writer and thinker. Minimal notes and (apparently) almost no editorial intervention make this a hard slog for all but the most ardent Beauvoirians.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-56584-422-X

Page Count: 576

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998



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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