An uneven celebration mainly for Steinbeck scholars and fans.

A compact primer from a Steinbeck scholar on what she believes is one of the greatest works in the history of literature.

Readers who agree that Steinbeck’s Depression-era saga is the Great American Novel will be able to go deeper into its various layers with this guide, but there is no balanced argument here on a work that had a mixed critical reception upon publication and continues to polarize opinion. “The Joads are like the Israelites seeking the Promised Land in Exodus,” writes Shillinglaw (English/San Jose State Univ.; Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage, 2013, etc.) in one of many biblical comparisons. The scope and scale of Steinbeck’s achievement elsewhere conjure comparisons with Shakespeare (Hamlet and King Lear in particular), Moby-Dick, Wordsworth and Blake, and the Arthurian Round Table. The book barely acknowledges lesser appraisals, brushing away criticisms like flies, acknowledging a mixed response but attributing much of the negativity to parochial concerns over its politics and the propriety of its language. Of the dialogue, the author admits, “some find it hokey. I don’t. It seems to me pitch-perfect, concrete and exact, capturing the migrants’ metaphoric speech patterns.” Of the dismissal of the novel as “middlebrow,” Shillinglaw counters, “That term might have pleased Steinbeck, since that’s precisely what he was after….He wrote this book for mass culture.” Perhaps the most revelatory thread in the study concerns Steinbeck’s friendship with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, “a friendship almost unearthly in its intensity.” “The intellectual and emotional bond between writer and scientist—a platonic love—was so unusual, so forward-looking, and so fiercely linked to an understanding of humans and the environment,” she writes, “that to see one is to see both and to understand both is to reconsider our own footprint in the world.”

An uneven celebration mainly for Steinbeck scholars and fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-14-312550-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014



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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