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Hauteur is Nabokov's middle name. Even when admitting to intellectual lacunae, he does so with the air of an aristocrat putting a peasant in his place: "I am completely ignorant of Wittgenstein's works, and the first time I heard his name must have been in the fifties. In Cambridge I played football and wrote Russian verse." This is a great way of getting through life. Such self-assurance usually charms people or cows them. Either way it insures one's supreme independence, both allows one to preen one's own feathers and snip at the plumage of rival peacocks. Strong Opinions — a collection of Nabokov's articles, interviews, letters to editors, and fugitive book reviews — is a marvel of malicious glee, deft phrases, and iconoclastic absurdities. His literary judgments, in particular, are deliciously haywire, as if a lunatic had been reading too much of Oscar Wilde: "Finnegan's Wake is nothing but a formless and dull mass of phony folklore, a cold pudding of a book, a persistent snore in the next room, most aggravating to the insomniac I am." Since this sort of whimsy goes on for pages and pages, Strong Opinions is less a portrait of Nabokov the master novelist, or even Nabokov the narcissist, than it is a little joke book concocted by Nabokov the funnyman, whose favorite American films, not too surprisingly, are those of the Marx Brothers. How cold intellects love Groucho and his nutty family! But can one picture Nabokov in a Marx Brothers film? Perhaps — as a replacement for Margaret Dumont, the statuesque stuffy society grande dame.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1973

ISBN: 0679726098

Page Count: 367

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1973

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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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