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paper 0-300-07561-8 Longtime New Yorker writer Mehta (Remembering Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker, 1998, etc.) takes on the “awkward task”of selecting pieces representative of his 40-year career. Mehta published his first book in 1957 at the age of 21 following his first year at Oxford. He would write 20 more, many autobiographical or based on essays that originally appeared in the New Yorker, whose editor, William Shawn, taught Mehta the “principles of good writing . . . clarity, harmony, truth, and unfailing courtesy to the reader.” At his best, Mehta is a stylist whose personal fascination with a subject can lend energy to the essay form, as in “The Train Had Just Arrived at Malgudi Station,” his lengthy profile of Indian novelist R.K. Narayan. Conducted in New York, his interviews of Narayan do reveal both the literary figure and the man. Sitting in Narayan’s borrowed apartment on East 57th Street, chewing betel nut, the two men range in conversational topics from Narayan’s takes on Western writers—mostly “bores,” such as Joyce, Hemingway, and Faulkner—to tearful recollections of his late wife. Mehta also does a marvelous job in “Nonviolence” of examining Mahatma Gandhi’s controversial celibacy and how this ahimea, or “love force,” prepared him for his history-making work. However, Mehta is sometimes indubitably long-winded, as in his overly long piece on the spite and vitriol of British philosophers in the early 1960s, which has little to recommend it. He relies on interviews with “John,” an Oxford lecturer who spoke “too frankly and unprofessionally to wish to be identified.” And Mehta’s dry presentation of stale data in his 1970 article on Calcutta’s poverty is relieved only by his brief look at some early criticisms of Mother Teresa (e.g., her lack of medically trained staff and her grandstanding acceptance of only “the most extreme and dramatic cases”). Too many pieces here are too mired in the time when they were written to endure.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07189-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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