The Urbane Bookworm: Robert Gottlieb’s Essays Celebrate Literature, Film Classics and Dance

In “Near-Death Experiences … and Others,” his new collection, the esteemed editor weighs in on romance novels, Hollywood movies and — a longstanding love — ballet.


Comments: 8

  1. This review is very compelling and entertaining reading. I've just gone online and purchased Walcott's memoir "Lucking Out."

  2. I was an avid ballet fan in SF and NYC. It always seemed to be much like opera: art for art's sake, beautiful and moving and poetry in motion. I will buy Gottlieb's book.

  3. I really look forward to reading this collection as Gottlieb writes almost as well as he edits. This might seem half-hearted praise, but it's not: he is the best book editor of the last seventy years.
    His writing about ballet is underestimated. He might not always have the capacity of a Chujoy or Denby to bring to life for the non-attender the essence of a work, but for those familiar with the works, his evocations of ballets and the personalities involved are remarkably brought vividly to life. His prose flows effortlessly (his biography of Balanchine is a remarkable compression and evaluation of a complicated man) and his ability to emphasise what is important and vital in a work rather than what is merely apparent is always a joy.
    Even in what sometimes can seem intransigent topics, Gottlieb always causes me to gurgle with delight at his turn of phrase.

  4. This review of Gottlieb’s reviews gives cause to mull over why the voice of the elite cultural critic has been so consistently diminishing in American life these past few decades! Put otherwise, where is our Edmund Wilson ...
    I personally suspect that pervasive corporatism that is an aspect of late stage capitalism has foisted on us a focus on consumerism and self promotion (principally visual) but would be fascinated to hear other readers thoughts.

  5. And here we have an endorsement of Gottlieb's evisceration of the entire romance novel genre (Wolcott contemplates the "dreck" Gottlieb had to read in preparation). Frustrating, especially when genre fiction, in aggregate, has at least as much good writing as literary fiction at the sentence level, and certainly has better plotting. Gottlieb should never have been given that assignment, and he shouldn't be lauded for taking cheap shots.

  6. I wonder if anyone remembers when James Wolcott was pretty much the conservative voice at The Village Voice. Now he can't even write a good review of Gottlieb's interesting book without taking a smarmy swipe at Dinesh D'Souza. It's what's made so much of his writing at Vanity Fair nothing more than parent-pleasing pap.

  7. Portrait of a man who needs more bookshelves.

  8. Please, Mr. Gottlieb, make sure that the next volume of Mr. Caro's work on LBJ does not contain the usual 150 or more pages of recap from the previous volume.