Not consistently hilarious, but quite pleasant and harmless. (16 line drawings)

Cowboy poet, former large-animal vet, NPR pundit, and essayist Black (Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy, 1997, etc.) is back, fooling with the kinds of large animals that wear blue jeans and can read.

There’s an occasional semi-serious piece on the gentrification of the West or the war against terrorism, but in most of these ten dozen really short tall tales the comical dialect is constant, the patois thick, and the glossary no more use than cow patties at an urban weddin’. The horsing around zips past like juniper berries in a Texas cyclone, so if the yarn about the bull in the chicken house doesn’t suit, perhaps the story of the heifer in the fishing line will. What about the cowboy who lost his dally and spilled into the arroyo: Ain’t that funny? Well, maybe it depends on the telling. It does seem that working at the rear end of a cow gives a feller a certain humorous worldview as well as a way with words. Bax describes, for example, a duster that “weighed more than a wet hallway carpet,” or being so broke he was “down to no keys.” Most of the pieces exist in a cowboy time that seems to be as independent as cowboy ways. (There is a reference to “ten-year-old copies of Look magazine,” though that journal died more than 30 years ago.) With frequent allusions to pickup trucks, skittish bovines, old dogs, and abrupt physical injury, the text seems designed primarily for those who affect knowledge in the use of a rope, a saddle, or a toolbox, but Bax is clearly also aware of readers “from outside the real world,” or as he terms them, “gentiles.” Punching cows for punch lines and throwing a 700-pound Bramer bull with aplomb may not be Noël Coward, but it’s fair day’s work for a cowpoke, after all.

Not consistently hilarious, but quite pleasant and harmless. (16 line drawings)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-609-61090-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002



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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