Shimmering dispatches from the far, far reaches of the geographical imagination, from the captivating, highly polished hand of Thubron (Turning Back the Sun, 1992, etc.). To say that central Asia is a place rich in history and legend is to put it mildly: land of the rivers Oxus and Jaxartes, of Samarkand and Tashkent, of Alexander, Tamerlane, and the great Khans...Kafiristan! Thubron drops in to measure its doings since the Great Fall of '91. He discovers a moody and unsettled place. From the endless cotton fields of the central plateau to the shepherds of the high Pamirs, all is in flux. Some towns are raucous with a sense of freedom and possibility; others just can't get their wheels turning, stuck with the political hacks of yesteryear, and the feeling is very much down in the dumps. At every turn Thubron bumps into one religious movement or another: Baptists in Kirgizhia, German Mennonites in Uzbekistan, a synagogue here, a cathedral there, and—not surprisingly—so many mosques you couldn't throw a brick without hitting one. The weaving of Islam into the political life of the republics, though still nascent, is a foregone conclusion, and the people of the region voice the same fears expressed everywhere whenever church invades state: the possibilities of sexual discrimination, religious persecution, interference in education (not that the nation-state has necessarily done so well in these venues, locals add). Thubron laces the narrative with gobs of history. Each place he visits comes drenched in a mythic past, and not just the ancient variety typified by Mongol hordes and the silk road, but also some of the more recent vintages: gulags pepper the land, and it was in Kazakhstan that the Soviets tested their atomic weapons and built the vilest of their heavy industry. Life has always been eventful in Central Asia; no doubt it will remain so. And if Thubron can't predict the future, he does provide all manner of telling detail to bring the region out of fable and onto terra firma. (First serial to CondÇ Nast Traveler)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-018226-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994



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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