Again, combining metaphorical leaps with side-of-the-mouth aphorisms and plain-song, Dillard celebrates moments of spiritual comfort and unease—not in sustained meditations here (as in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek or Holy the Firm), but in a variety of encounters with animals, stars, vegetation, and people. She watches a gloriously-described weasel ("a muscled ribbon") go for the throat; in the Ecuadorian jungle she sees a captured deer in agony; she recalls a Miami man who was burned horribly twice; and rather than try to reconcile these things with God's existence, she usually accepts them . . . as the way things are, as Mystery. God—or something—is vividly present, however, in a viewing (with screams) of the total solar eclipse: "It was as though an enormous, loping god in the sky had reached down and slapped the earth's face." And God is there in Dillard's frequent Silences: a silent field swirling with angels; the particular silence that fills the room of a man who has devoted his life to teaching a stone to talk. ("The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God's brooding over the face of the waters. . . .") But: is God there in church, in organized religion? That, again, is one of Dillard's preoccupations. So she encounters a little boy drilled in Fundamentalism, later ponders the anti-Darwinism (unnecessary, she thinks) of Creationists. And, in one of the longer pieces, Dillard sees a bumbling Catholic church service ("God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter") as analagous to the search-for-the-sublime of the Polar explorers: "What are the chances that God finds our failed impersonation of human dignity adorable? Or is he fooled? What odds do you give me?" Here, however, the metaphor is cruelly belabored. And, throughout, Dillard's sharp images occasionally slide over into elevated greeting-card verbiage, while her salutary undercutting remarks can quite often become precious. Still: a collection of meditations like polished stones-painstakingly worded, tough-minded yet partial to Mystery, and peerless when it comes to injecting larger resonances into the natural world.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 1982

ISBN: 0060915412

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982



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




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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