Stately pronouncements from a master of the form.

LIFE SENTENCES

LITERARY JUDGMENTS AND ACCOUNTS

A wry, mannered retrospective collection of essays by octogenarian Gass (A Temple of Texts, 2006, etc.).

In these wide-ranging essays, the author embarks on considerations of the function of mimesis in Greek theater with the same stylistic devotion and plentitude as he does an exegesis of lust. In “Retrospection,” a revelatory piece written at age 87, he admits that writing never came easily to him, yet creating metaphors was “unstoppable,” as natural as “carp ris[ing] to a dimple of bread.” (He lists seven personal “bad habits” in the same essay—e.g., naming, metaphoring, jingling, preaching, theorizing, celebrating, translating, all of which nicely percolate in other essays here.) The profound reading of this former philosophy professor is gorgeously in evidence—e.g., in his writing about Nietzsche, Kafka, Malcolm Lowry and Henry James, and in an excoriating look at the extent of Nazi Germany’s legitimizing of murder. His essay on the “Nordic Nazi” and little-read Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun is a fascinating study of a soul-impoverished quisling. Bass also offers erudite but no less accessible reflections in a series of Biggs Lectures in the Classics. The author delights in a well-turned sentence, and the last section of this alluring collection diagrams some duds and some doozies—e.g., Sir Walter Scott’s litany from Waverley, Chester Himes’ tough-guy constructions in Run Man Run. As a philosopher, Gass confesses that his most cherished part of speech is the preposition, particularly of, meaning “those of possession and being possessed, of belonging and exclusion.” Throughout, rhythm is the author’s organizing principle, rendering his own sentences compelling, exacting and suggestive.

Stately pronouncements from a master of the form.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-59584-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

NUTCRACKER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more