This new collection from editor Robert Gottlieb features twenty or so pieces he’s written mostly for The New York Review of Books, ranging from reconsiderations of American writers such as Dorothy Parker, Thornton Wilder and Thomas Wolfe, the actor-assassin John Wilkes Booth, the movie star Mary Astor, and Donald Trump.
A miscellaneous collection of reviews and essays that takes up where his previous collection, Lives and Letters, left off. The title chapter is a thematic roundup of personal memoirs by near-death experiencers, who report floating out of their stricken bodies into radiant heaven or some mistier quadrant of the afterlife before returning to their earthly shells to share their special sneak preview of life eternal ... Gottlieb never lacks context when it comes to his own pet subjects; it’s at fingertip command.
This essay collection shows, among other things, that Gottlieb has a boundless curiosity in and appetite for narratives, on and off the page—the life of a narrative and the narrative(s) of a life ... Gottlieb has a gift for description, and it is a joy to see things (or imagine them) through his eyes ... this collection is great company for those in need of encouragement that there can still be something like an American republic of letters.
In this sterling essay collection, Gottlieb, an editor and critic, wields words...insightfully, with...wit and precision ... Composed mostly of critical essays for the New York Review of Books, plus a selection of dance reviews for the Observer ... Gottlieb’s standards are exacting, but he gives praise where due. He’s particularly passionate about the state of dance, and makes the reader share his enthusiasm. Perhaps Gottlieb’s greatest achievement is that he inspires one to want to learn more about his subjects; his restless curiosity becomes the reader’s.