A poignant reminder of the power and appeal of a voice now silent.



Slim but substantial gathering of personal pieces by the late novelist and memoirist.

Not long before he died, Styron (1925–2006) began assembling this collection, a task completed by his widow Rose and biographer James L.W. West III. Several pieces appear here for the first time; all bear the hallmarks of Styron’s better work: fresh language, self-deprecation, unpretentiousness, wry liberalism, candor and, at times, an anger burning like magma beneath a deceptively placid surface. Most originally appeared in the 1990s; they deal with subjects as varied as the obsession for cigars that permeated the JFK Administration (the title essay), a bout with syphilis (sort of) in the Marines, walks with his dog, the importance of libraries, urological problems. This last subject provides one of his best lines: “I declared to the bishop that the nonexistence of God could be proved by the existence of the prostate gland.” There are some pieces about experiences with other writers, including a liquor-soaked cross-country train ride with Terry Southern and his long friendship with James Baldwin. Styron (A Tidewater Morning: Three Tales from Youth, 1993, etc.) praises the work of some contemporaries, most notably Norman Mailer, James Jones and Truman Capote. (Styron confesses to jealousy when he first read Other Voices, Other Rooms.) A swift tribute to Mark Twain points to some similarities. Both grew up near rivers (Styron by Virginia’s James), and both, in Huckleberry Finn and The Confessions of Nat Turner, touched the most sensitive of American nerve endings. Styron ruminates about his boyhood diary—why wasn’t he reading more, he wonders?—slams Disney for their planned Virginia theme park, has kind words for the French and recalls in several pieces his work on his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness (1951). He also toys with the very funny image of assorted solemn intellectual figures—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thomas Mann, Immanuel Kant—in jogging attire.

A poignant reminder of the power and appeal of a voice now silent.

Pub Date: April 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6719-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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 20, 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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