About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • Summer Arrives Early

    By kyle | May 20, 2008

    Sorry I missed the Indiana Jones screening and haven’t updated this blog in a few days. But on Sunday my wife Sara Austin gave birth to our daughter, Summer Austin Smith. Everyone is healthy and happy and back home so I’ll be back on the blog shortly.

    Topics: Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

    Re-Redacted: “Battle for Haditha”

    By kyle | April 29, 2008

    The quasi-documentary “Battle for Haditha” takes a balanced view of Iraqis swept up in the events that resulted in the killings of civilians in Haditha in November, 2005. Some were innocent; others were noble insurgents forced to fight by sinister American policies. There is only one kind of Marine in it, though: the kind who likes to shoot innocent people on sight. Read the rest of this entry »

    Topics: Iraq, Movies, Politics, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Erin Go Blaugggh!

    By kyle | March 16, 2008

    In my Sunday column I write about St. Patrick’s Day, which I redefine as the process of celebrating a British citizen (St. Patrick) with a British song (“Danny Boy”) while drinking British beer (Guinness).

    Topics: Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

    IKEA: Simply the Besta

    By kyle | March 9, 2008

    In my Sunday column today I ask the question: is IKEA a Swedish-socialist Utopia or a libertarian paradise in disguise?

    Let us remove our two-horned helmets and sing the epic of IKEA. Praise to all your Ringos and Rimfrosts, your Oddvar habit of giving furniture names like Fartfull and Beslut. I love those saucy umlauts, like ripe lingonberries, and the way your 100% cotton tie-back curtains carry the name Alvine Vaxt, which I think was also the name of the villain in “Moonraker.”

    Like all great Nordic myths, IKEA, you swing your mighty hammer on the anvil of despair, somewhere in the desolate fjords of your soul. Your founder’s grandfather killed himself with a shotgun. Your founder himself attended Nazi meetings as a youth. And many of the living rooms in your catalogues resemble the set of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage,” suggesting Liv Ullmann is lurking just off the page in marital anguish.

    A man was stabbed and five people were taken to the hospital in a North London stampede when IKEA opened its doors there in 2005. The year before, in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, three people died and 17 were injured in the grand-opening madness. To these sad tidings I say: every man dies. Not every man has the honor to die for modular furniture and tiny meatballs.

    Yet when I visit IKEA (yes, an acronym: the I and the K are the initials of its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, the fourth richest person in the world; the E and the A are for the farm and village where he grew up), it’s always the mid-70s, and the world is bright. I’m not too old to sit in a beanbag chair and “Dancing Queen” is at the top of the charts. (Which came first, Benny and Bjorn or Arild and Anga, IKEA’s sofa and TV bench?)

    IKEA already has a store in Siberia, but at last it has brought its Hopen, as well as its Fangst, to a truly challenging retail environment: New York City. The Red Hook, Brooklyn store is hiring and preparing to open its doors. Now the financial center of the world will get a lesson–in cold-eyed capitalism. Libertarians should be Fargglad. I’m not being Snartig when I say IKEA isn’t soft cushiony socialism; it’s Wal-Mart in Democrat drag.

    Outsourcing? IKEA invented it. In the 1960s, when Sweden’s furniture cartel tried to drive it out of business by organizing a boycott of suppliers, IKEA went to Poland for materials. Today it outsources its customers, sending us on free buses from Manhattan to Elizabeth, N.J.

    Taxes? IKEA hates them. At the onshore tax haven underneath Newark Airport’s flight patterns, you pay half–3.5 percent–of the typical New Jersey tax rate. Kamprad is a tax refugee living in Switzerland, not Sweden, and the complicated corporate structure of IKEA, which is run by a taxman-disorienting array of holding companies, drives down its Eurotaxes.

    Imagine what would happen if Macy’s were subjected to a “ruthless” business model, i.e. one that put customers ahead of job creation. Macy’s is run like a Soviet train station, where one guy sells your ticket, another guy inspects it, a third guy tears it, and nobody can tell you what train goes where. The last time I was in Macy’s to test-drive a sofa, four different sales gnats came buzzing around me in search of a commission. There were three customers. Fire the hard-sellers, lower the price of the sofa by $200 and you’ve got IKEA, where most items can simply be picked up and rolled out the door. At the entrance there is a sign: “No one will bother you.” Five words, one libertarian ideal.

    IKEA automates, meaning fewer surly minimum-wage zombies to deal with at every turn. Want an IKEA credit card? Go up to a kiosk in the store, punch in your information, and your new credit card number is printed on the spot, in minutes. At checkout, you can scan and ring up the merch yourself, meaning shorter waits. Conservatives should be pleased that self-sufficiency is taught as a character imperative at IKEA. Wrote Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian: “Ikea’s moral crusade extends uncompromisingly to the customer. Whether you like it or not, it intends to teach you the value of good, honest, simple hard work. Self-assembly, viewed from this perspective, is more than a cost-cutting measure: it’s a tool of evangelism, designed to make you sweat for your own edification.”

    Like Wal-Mart, IKEA stringently enforces cost-cutting measures–making even senior executives fly coach and stay in cheap hotels. If anyone’s feelings are hurt, they are as disposable as the lamp in the 2002 Spike Jonze IKEA commercial. The lamp is like a homeless urchin, discarded by its owner and left on the curb in the merciless rain. Who will rescue the lost little lamp? Shouldn’t we be building lamp shelters so this won’t happen again? Suddenly, a nutty Swedish man enters the frame, saying, “Many of you feel bad for dis lamp. Dat is because you crazy. Duh lamp has no feelings! And the new one is much bedder!” Fangst for everything, IKEA. You’re the Besta.

    Topics: Advertising, Philosophy, Uncategorized | No Comments »

    Review: “Snow Angels”

    By kyle | March 7, 2008

    David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels,” based on a novel by Stewart O’Nan, is a charmingly quirky tale of hookups and breakups among teens and adults in a small town featuring excellent performances by Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, and Michael Angarano as a member of the school marching band who attracts interest from a hip new girl in school. I loved this movie…until the second half. My review is here. Meanwhile, completing the trifecta of things I’ve reviewed this week whose titles contain the word “life,” I also take a look at a documentary about surgeons and other medical personnel who treat America’s wounded warriors in “Fighting for Life,” which concludes with the moving story of an Army specialist steadily improving after an amputation.

    Topics: Movies, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    We have a loser

    By Sara | February 24, 2008

    Anyone who gets to be Daniel Day Lewis’s date is doing something very right, but Rebecca’s Miller’s dress looks like a Christmas present that should have been returned. Where is Heidi Klum when I need her?

    Topics: Uncategorized | No Comments »

    Delusion sets in early in Hollywood

    By Sara | February 24, 2008

    “It’s pretty crazy to finally be standing here on the red carpet at the Oscars.” — Miley Cyrus, who is 15 years old. Who is best known for her dippy tween show on the Disney Channel. A show that is called “Hannah Montana.” Who is the spawn of Billy Ray “Achy Breaky Heart” Cyrus. It’s only natural she’d wonder why the Oscars called Judi Dench and Helen Mirren first.

    Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Instant fashion verdicts – male edition

    By Sara | February 24, 2008

    Colin Farrell = too greasy
    Johnny Depp = overdone
    Harrison Ford = past its prime
    Javier Bardem = cooked to perfection
    Viggo Mortensen = is that a hair in my soup?
    Wesley Snipes = who cares…what is Wesley Snipes doing at the Oscars??!!!??

    Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    The first time I’ve ever felt kinship with Jessica Alba

    By Sara | February 24, 2008

    Oh Jessica, my sister in the Third Trimester Experience, did you just get asked by Ryan Seacrest on live TV about your intentions to breastfeed? Ryan has not only never been pregnant (so he helpfully notes) but apparently never been around a pregnant friend, sister, or coworker. He racked his mind among all the polite, generic inquiries at hand and came up with…are those boobs functional?

    Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    In the spirit of Oscar shamelessness

    By Sara | February 24, 2008

    Anne Hathaway looks gorgeous tonight, and I’m sure her Lancome perfume will be delightful, and I’m not just saying that because I hope Lancome sends me a gift bag like they did last time Kyle made fun of Lancome. Lancome Lancome Lancome. Send more girl products next time!

    From Kyle: I was making fun of Clive Owen, not the Lancome-ians, who did indeed send me a quantity of mystery unguents and potions, not that, as a real man, I knew what to do with them. Baume Apres Rasage, anyone?

    Topics: Uncategorized | No Comments »

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