Compares favorably, piece by piece, to its cousins in poetry and short story.


Eighteenth edition of the annual known for its high standards lives up to its predecessors.

Editor Gould, who died in May, was himself an accomplished essayist whose columns in Natural History have earned him a place just below Thomas Huxley's in the ranks of scientific prose masters. Oddly, he did not select many scientifically oriented pieces for this collection, though there are three particularly strong essays on medical topics. Atul Gawande's “Final Cut,” which reports on the modern disregard of autopsies as well as describing in grim detail how autopsies are carried out, will provoke thought—and perhaps some reader's stomachs as well. Jonathan Franzen’s “My Father's Brain,” a beautifully written memoir of Ed Franzen's lapse into Alzheimer's, presages the author's fictional The Corrections (2001). Finally, Barbara Ehrenreich smashes through the pieties of “survivorhood and sisterhood” that surround breast cancer in “Welcome to Cancerland” (also in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, edited by Natalie Angier, above). Reporting on the oddly infantalizing and upbeat culture enforced on breast cancer sufferers, Ehrenreich views the pink ribbons and teddy bears handed out in cancer support groups as “amulets and talismans, comforting the survivor”; she prefers anger and investigation of the environmental causes of breast cancer, an area of research not encouraged by the corporate-funded American Cancer Society. Gould’s introduction remarks with some understated dismay on the confessional tone prevalent among essayists today, which may lead readers to wonder what prompted him to include Bernard Cooper’s whiny memoir, “Winner Take Nothing.” The editor remarks more happily on the high quality of the 9/11 essays, of which the best is “Turning Point,” by Rudolph Chelminski. Taking an oblique angle to the attack, Chelminski profiles French tightrope walker Philippe Petit, who walked across a cable between the Twin Towers in 1974.

Compares favorably, piece by piece, to its cousins in poetry and short story.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-21388-0

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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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