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In this slim medley, novelist Hustvedt (The Blindfold, 1992; The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, 1996) ranges freely from autobiography to Vermeer’s Woman with a Pearl Necklace to Dickens to The Great Gatsby. The fine title piece takes as its subject the dichotomy of here and there, and the space in between, or “yonder”: Hustvedt’s native Minnesota and her parents’ Norway, Norway and New York City, where she makes her adult home. She writes about time, space, early memory, or what we ascribe to memory. She wonders what the world is like from her child’s point of view, and considers children’s sense of place, their preference for order in repetition. (“Yonder” and “home” are the twin poles of the child’s universe, notes Hustvedt.) In “Vermeer’s Annunciation,” a flash of insight into the painting of a young woman trying on a string of pearls leads Hustvedt to seek inspiration for the Dutch artist’s composition and figurative gesture in Renaissance depictions of the announcement of the incarnation to the Virgin Mary. Then, in the early master Fra Angelico’s Annunciation fresco in Florence, she finds an image as motionless as Vermeer’s. “A Plea for Eros” considers the mysterious attraction of strangeness and enchantment Hustvedt is able to feel for her longtime lover. Less personal and memorable but showing Hustvedt’s appreciation for Dickens’s dense metaphorical structures is a longer, scholarly piece on his last finished novel, Our Mutual Friend. In the closing essay, on still life, Hustvedt locates the primacy of “things” in our experience of solitude and considers the immediacy of the great allegorical paintings of the Dutch. Later painters of still life wanted something different. As she writes epigrammatically: “I am not tempted by CÇzanne’s pears in Still Life with Ginger Jar and Eggplants, because they are not pears. They are forms in the space of my perception.” A strong collection. Hustvedt’s essays, like the ordinary objects she identifies as the genesis of still life, are “dignified by the metamorphosis we call art.”

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5011-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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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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