Even though they get a bit precious at times and sometimes lose their way, the essays always come together “to resurrect and...

AN ARRANGEMENT OF SKIN

ESSAYS

Poet Journey (English/Univ. of Southern California; Vulgar Remedies, 2013, etc.) gathers 14 quirky, earthy, lyrical essays, a number of which have been previously published.

In “Modifying the Badger,” about the author’s transforming a badger into a raccoon via taxidermy, she discusses C.D. Wright’s poem “Personals” and how, “through accumulation and refraction, Wright’s slivers of personal history…expand into a larger social matrix.” So do Journey’s essays, many of which are autobiographical. Each piece is like a “sliver” of a photo album in which we observe the author’s grandparents, parents, sister, friends, and boyfriends. Sometimes it’s not pretty, like when she writes about calling a suicide hotline or when she describes herself and her best friend burning their arms with the ends of cigarettes. There are many secrets in closets, and there’s also glorious prose, beautiful images and metaphors composed by a fine poet. In “A Common Skin,” about how a rider and horse “share a common skin,” she describes her rigid calf muscles as “dried corncobs,” her heels hanging down, “hard as rubber.” Many of the titles are poetic: “Epithalamium with Skunk Pigs,” “A Flicker of Animal, a Flank” and “Prologue as Part of the Body.” Readers will learn intriguing tidbits along the way—e.g., how to stuff a starling, that “taxidermy is about life, not death,” how to be a potter, give a tattoo. We also visit interesting places, like dusty Deyrolle, part Parisian taxidermy shop, part museum of oddities, and Los Angeles’ Museum of Death, home to the preserved head of the vicious serial killer Henri Désiré Landru. These elegant essays are sometimes-bewitching meditations and musings: a “unique mixture of pathos and humor, revelation and concealment, banality and wonder.”

Even though they get a bit precious at times and sometimes lose their way, the essays always come together “to resurrect and walk.”

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61902-847-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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NUTCRACKER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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