Ultimately, meaning and mystery coexist in Searcy’s mind, and his offbeat, exciting writing will resonate with readers for...

SHAME AND WONDER

ESSAYS

A Texas essayist goes looking for meaning in all the right places.

The essays in this debut collection by Searcy, who previously published two novels of sci-fi horror (Last Things, 2002, etc.), suggest what might happen if Stephen King somehow morphed into David Foster Wallace. Though there are none of the latter’s signature footnotes, the author’s allusive and elusive writing seeks connections beneath the surface of appearance and the alternatives to conventional wisdom. His mother was an artist, as is his girlfriend, as is his late friend, and their work provides plenty of perspective on the creative impulse, which also permeates these essays. In the opening “The Hudson River School,” a visit to the dental hygienist inspires a visit to her father, a rancher in West Texas, who has been targeting a coyote (or more) that has been attacking his sheep, using a tape of their baby’s cries as a lure. “Out here, you probably need to know a lot more clearly what you’re doing,” writes Searcy. “How to situate yourself. You’ve got your basics here to deal with after all. Your wind, your emptiness, your animals, your house.” Clarity, emptiness, and whatever the basics are remain touchstones throughout these essays, whether the writer is exploring the lunar landscape of Enchanted Rock, touring Turkey in search of Santa Claus, trying to find meaning in his lack of connection with baseball, or rediscovering a piece by his late mother while rummaging through “twenty years of stuff diverted here. Not quite tossed out. You never know.” Searcy also spends plenty of time revisiting childhood experiences never quite resolved, snapshots and notebooks that provide a different perspective on the experience he’s relating, and occasionally discovering, “How cool and dark and clear it is, right here at the heart of things. How clearly things reveal themselves. Who knew?”

Ultimately, meaning and mystery coexist in Searcy’s mind, and his offbeat, exciting writing will resonate with readers for whom “you never know” and “who knew?” might be mantras.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9394-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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