The book features occasionally salacious details, but there is never a dull moment.



The globe-trotting adventures of former magazine editor Podell (co-author: Who Needs a Road?: The Story of the Longest and Last Motor Journey Around the World, 1967).

Having traversed the world on an ambitious, fraught, 581-day Trans-World Record Expedition with Harold Stephens in 1965-1966, Brooklyn-born Podell renewed his vow in 2000 to try to reach all the countries in the world. At the time, he was “dimly aware there were between 190 and 200 countries.” Juggling a New York law practice, he set out sporadically over the next decade, either in the company of a beautiful young woman (“a legacy from my previous post as an editor at Playboy”) or stalwart male cohorts, to trek through some difficult and often politically explosive terrain. Chronicling his travels through South and Central America, West Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, he offers entertaining highlights of evidently arduous yet well-planned trips. Figuring out what constituted a country—e.g., membership in the U.N. was not always a given (Taiwan, Vatican City and Kosovo)—and obtaining visas to certain dictatorial hot spots were nearly impossible. Although his “do-do list” gets tiresome, the author’s tales are unquestionably entertaining. He trekked up Mount Vaea in Samoa to visit the grave of another “teller of tales,” his idol Robert Louis Stevenson; gamely tried all manner of ghastly edibles, including still-pulsating monkey brain; and talked his way out of numerous dangerous scrapes. Though a well-hardened traveler, Podell occasionally shows his pampered Western roots, such as in ranking a country’s comfort level by the quality of its toilet paper: the Podell Potty Paper Rating (PPPR—1 being “soft white,” and 7 means “no public toilets at all”). While he writes warmly of kindly inhabitants and creatures, he is extremely critical of Haiti and parts of Africa where the education gap neglects to teach people “how to think”—like this canny American, at least.

The book features occasionally salacious details, but there is never a dull moment.

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05198-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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 19, 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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