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Wednesday, December 26th, 2001


Nutcracker 1st Edition

by E T A Hoffmann

The Real Nutcracker

A review by Adrienne Miller

Out of print for fourteen years, the reissue of this enchanting Maurice Sendak-illustrated version of Nutcracker is truly cause to celebrate. I'm going to be honest here — I'd never read the story before. It was like, Why bother? The tale seemed as blandly familiar and omnipresent as eggnog. Uninformed opinions are killers, though, because the story is much richer, much more complex than the ubiquitous Tchaikovsky ballet had led me to believe (with all due respect, of course, to Tchaikovsky, Balanchine, Baryshnikov and PBS). The real Nutcracker, E.T.A. Hoffmann's beautiful, subtle Nutcracker, is the perfect subject for Sendak, whom you'll remember as the author/artist of the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are. Nutcracker, like Where the Wild Things Are, explores the complicated internal world of children — the magic of childhood, and the terror of it, too. I probably don't need to go into the story, but let it just be said that, interestingly, the sexual undercurrent between the girl (here "Marie," in the ballet "Clara") and the Nutcracker (which I've always found confusing, to say the least) is in Hoffmann's story more a kind of maternal concern. Sendak's paintings are glorious, witty, and alive. An utterly delightful book.

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.

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