AN AMERICAN HOMEPLACE

THE REAL WORLD OF RURAL AMERICA

Essays on rural life by NPR commentator McCaig (Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men, 1991; Nop's Trials, 1984, etc.). McCaig's historical piece about the remote Virginia region where he lives and why he gave up Manhattan is unfocused and gets the book off to an uncertain start. Nor do the two-page essays, written for radio, and the longer essays, created for publications such as The Atlantic, contribute to a unified whole. Read individually, however, McCaig's pieces are lyrical and timely. The joys of country life come through in meditations on being snowbound, when one can read in peace and savor the food one has laid by. Farm animals provide satisfaction: the pleasures of working stock with dogs, or the nearly human frailties of sheep. But McCaig has doubts about the life he and his wife have carved out: City friends are far more prosperous, and everywhere he looks rural communities are failing. There are fewer farmers; every old method, which took from the land but also preserved it, is being subsumed by the assembly-line style of agribusiness. In his concluding essays, McCaig seeks out several visionaries, asking, in effect, ``Can we save rural America?'' Helen Nearing and the now- deceased Scott Nearing were the famous radicals of the 1950's who, with Living the Good Life and its sequels, inspired ``back-to-the- land''—but McCaig feels the movement has died. Wendell Berry, while an admirable philosopher and poet, also seems anachronistic. The nearest thing to hope comes in Kansas, from Wes Jackson, with his elaborate experiments with the right crops for the right regions. McCaig brings a kind of loving humility to his subjects, a rare quality. His collection is uneven, but, at its best, pure and moving. (Twenty halftones—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-517-58487-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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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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