Candid and perceptive last words by a treasured writer.

Thoughtful reflections on the writing life from the late author (1929-2018).

Le Guin (No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, 2017, etc.), the winner of a host of awards during her prolific career, likened a successful interview to “a good badminton rally,” where the birdie floats effortlessly between the players. Her three conversations with writer, editor, and radio show and podcast host Naimon felt good from the start, a process of mutual discovery and intelligent exchanges about fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, three genres to which Le Guin devoted much of her career (she was also an essayist, children’s book author, playwright, and translator). The author admitted feeling most comfortable talking about fiction, the subject of her recent book Steering the Craft, to which Naimon frequently referred as they discussed such writerly concerns as grammar, sentence rhythm, and point of view. Use of the present tense, common in contemporary fiction, results, Le Guin said, in “flashlight focus,” where readers see only what is directly ahead. It is “great for high suspense, high drama, cut-to-the-chase writing,” but otherwise, she found the authorial point of view (a term she preferred to “omniscient”) “the most flexible and useful.” Le Guin cited Virginia Woolf, Tolstoy, Orwell, Grace Paley, Margaret Atwood, and José Saramago (a late discovery, she admitted) as writers she particularly admired. Although more tentative discussing poetry, she conceded that her work reflected an immersion in Taoism and Buddhism “so deep in me and everything I do.” A.E. Housman, Rilke, and Gabriela Mistral, whom she felt was unjustly ignored, earned her special praise. Le Guin’s political views surfaced strongly in the discussion about nonfiction, and Naimon asked about writing across differences of race, gender, or culture: “When does an attempt to understand become co-optation?” Acknowledging the complexity of the question, Le Guin responded, “eternal vigilance is required.” The conversations are interspersed with excerpts from Le Guin’s work and that of other writers discussed.

Candid and perceptive last words by a treasured writer.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941040-99-7

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018



Lg. Prt. 0-375-70288-1 This first nonfiction outing from singer/songwriter Buffett (Where Is Joe Merchant?, 1992, etc.) is more food for his Parrothead fans, but there is some fine writing along with the self-revelation. Half autobiography and half travelogue, this volume recounts a trip by Buffett and his family to the Caribbean over one Christmas holiday to celebrate the writer’s 50th birthday. Buffett is a licensed pilot, and his personal weakness is for seaplanes, so it’s primarily in this sort of craft that the family’s journey takes place. While giving beautiful descriptions of the locales to which he travels (including a very attractive portrait of Key West, from which he sets out), Buffett intersperses recollections of his first, short-lived marriage, his experiences in college and avoiding the Vietnam draft, and his brief employment at Billboard magazine’s Nashville bureau before becoming a professional musician. In the meantime, he carries his reader seamlessly through the Cayman Island, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Amazon basin, and Trinidad and Tobago. Buffett shows that he is a keen observer of Latin American culture and also that he can “pass” in these surroundings when he needs to. It’s perhaps on this latter point that this book finds its principal weakness. Buffett tends toward preachiness in addressing his mostly landlubber readers, as when he decries the seeming American inability to learn a second language while most Caribbeans can speak English; elsewhere he attacks “ugly Americans out there making it harder for us more-connected-to-the-local-culture types.” On the other hand, he seems right on the money when he observes that the drug war of the 1980s did little to stop trafficking in the area and that turning wetlands into helicopter pads for drug agents isn’t going to offer any additional help. Both Parrotheads and those with a taste for the Caribbean find something for their palates here. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-43527-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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

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