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A treat for armchair travelers and bookish Francophiles.

American and English writers respond—most, exultantly—to la belle France and its possibilities.

Editor Powers (Ireland in Mind, 2000, etc.) has the right idea: to let mostly good, mostly familiar authors offer their English-speaking compatriots insight into another country. In this instance, she gathers selections from the usual suspects (Lawrence Durrell, F. Scott Fitzgerald), from writers associated with France but not often anthologized in that context (James Baldwin, Mary McCarthy), and from authors better known for their portrayals of other cultures (Robert Louis Stevenson, Edith Wharton). Most of her 33 selections are sound, or at least defensible, though including the likes of Peter Mayle and David Sedaris seems more a bow to commerce than to art. But there is art aplenty here, and even some surprises. One is an excerpt from the travel diaries of Ezra Pound, who walked across southwestern France in 1912, on the trail of his beloved troubadours, and has seldom sounded better: “Whether it is a haze of heat or whether it is only the effect of sunlight & of great distance, I do not know, but there come with these mts, as the sun lowers, a colour at once metallic & oriental, as of a substance both dim & burnished.” Another is a letter from 18th-century novelist Tobias Smollett, who wonders how it is that Lyons could have been promoted as a healthful retreat, seeing as it is “very hot in summer, and very cold in winter; therefore I imagine must abound with inflammatory and intermittent disorders in the spring and fall of the year.” Still another standout is a selection from James Fenimore Cooper; though strongly associated with New York and the American West, he lived in France for a decade and marvels here that in this civilized nation a person could rent an apartment that comes with furniture—and, even better, catch a glimpse of a woman’s knees.

A treat for armchair travelers and bookish Francophiles.

Pub Date: March 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-71435-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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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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