SOUTH OF THE NORTHEAST KINGDOM

The National Geographic Directions series is proving to be a winner, not quaint but quirky. Mamet comes out swinging and...

A sidelong, inferential portrait of Mamet’s (The Cabin, 1992, etc.) Vermont hometown, with a spirited indictment of American political perfidy and cultural poverty.

“I see the romantic residue of Vermont humor, self-regard, circumspection, and patience; call it culture or philosophy, it is quite the most attractive thing,” writes Mamet. By these qualities, he measures Vermont against the greater America, where a “bloated plutocracy” runs a show of deceit, theft, whining, and international bullying. Vermont looks pretty good by comparison, though Mamet works toward this point only askance. The state’s values of common sense and intuition, thrift, directness, and self-sufficiency—no one cuts their food for them—are iconic and appealing, especially when delivered in Mamet’s clipped, no-flimflam voice. Of the human landscape: “Much of the charm of these houses lies in their rational situation, their active relationship with geography. They have the human beauty of an act of understanding, the beauty of a tool.” Of doing business: “There is, as part of the Mountain ethos, a clear line between sharp practice and fraud. One may embellish and distract, but one may not lie.” Vermont still values craft and skill, enjoys easy socializing, will only be dazzled by the new when it shows its stuff. Mamet worries that these bedrock attributes are being corrupted by an influx of year-round weekenders who don’t know any better than to track in the mud, among whom he counts himself in an act of excessive modesty—an act Vermonters would find disingenuous. The author hits his targets so surely, from politicians to bread-bakers, that his screed against computers feels out of place: “The computer is a solution to no known problem.” How about not having to retype the whole page? A Vermonter could appreciate that.

The National Geographic Directions series is proving to be a winner, not quaint but quirky. Mamet comes out swinging and singing, and the sense of place falls neatly in between. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2002

ISBN: 0-7922-6960-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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