An invigorating collection of passionate, spirited voices.



Pithy literary musings on art, culture, politics and life selected from the Threepenny Review’s Table Talk section.

Featuring essays published between 1990 and 2013, the anthology emulates a gathering of critics, philosophers, writers and artists in lively conversation. Topics vary from Sven Birkerts’ battle with a stray cat, mirroring his own restlessness, to Steve Vineberg’s commentary on the “seductiveness of celebrity” so well-articulated in John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation. While some contributions are time-specific, most resonate with a universality that goes beyond their publication dates. Life’s exasperating moments turn into humor in Dwight Garner’s account of moving preparations, which involved “Packing (and Lugging) My Library.” Irene Oppenheim’s attempt to help a neighbor becomes a lesson in the “art and etiquette [of] delivering phone books.” John Berger flexes his observational muscles, describing the mysterious ritual a Vietnamese woman goes through at a pool in Paris, and Greil Marcus, writing on the discovery of a 1925 Dorothea Lange photo of his mother, marvels at the photographer’s revelatory power. A lament for things lost echoes through several essays. Though technology can make life more convenient, Arthur Lubow wonders what is “getting left out” in our digitized lives and worries that “what’s new is a thinned-out version of what was old.” Evelyn Toynton mourns the closing of the British Museum Reading Room in service of efficiency, a rare space that “restores the old sense of time, a contemplative rather than harried awareness of its passing.” Claire Messud rues the disappearance from modern novels of digressions, replaced with reader-desired “closure.” “Real life,” she writes, “for all we try to impose order upon it, is but an endless string of digressions.” Without them, she writes, life would be “exceedingly dull.” Not so with this assemblage of ideas, critical thinking and wry observations, which is itself a swell digression. Other contributors include Michael Gorra, Javier Marias, Sigrid Nunez and Robert Reich.

An invigorating collection of passionate, spirited voices.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1619024571

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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