Earnest, well-turned personal essays about screw-ups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick.

Seriocomic tales of the author’s recovery from a host of bad habits, including drinking, false friends, bad relationships and politics.

New York Times contributor Kreider (Twilight of the Assholes, 2011, etc.) gained a cult following for drawing cartoons that were fiercely critical of the George W. Bush administration, but these essays reflect an urge to detox from things that used to make his blood run hot. For instance, he attends a Tea Party rally but takes pains not to get too riled up, and he recalls one alcoholic friend who routinely deceived him, but mostly frames him as gentle and charming. This kind of emotional poise doesn’t come naturally to Kreider, and the best essays chronicle his emotional and intellectual struggle to temper anger and heartbreak into (at least) stoicism. In the collection’s finest essay, “Escape From Pony Island,” he recalls how a friendship with a self-declared intellectual heavyweight went sour over “peak oil” theory, laying out his friend’s frustrating behavior but also identifying how his own intellectual shortcomings helped sink the relationship. Kreider sets up most of these essays as humor pieces. In “The Referendum,” he boggles at the idea of raising a child—or rather, having “a small rude incontinent person follow me around screaming and making me buy them stuff for the rest of my life”—and cartoons depicting him and his friends as rubber-faced and careworn support the knowing, self-critical tone. However, none of the essays are lighthearted shtick, and Kreider closes with three essays that are softer and more nuanced, addressing a friend undergoing a male-to-female sex change, reading Tristram Shandy with his ailing mother and finally meeting his two half sisters in his 40s. Though the author occasionally labors to balance compassion and laughs, his sincerity is always evident.

Earnest, well-turned personal essays about screw-ups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick. 

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9870-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012



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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