Kisor (What's That Pig Outdoors?, 1990) records his adventures on the California Zephyr, the legendary transcontinental train from Chicago to L.A. Kisor loves the train, the crew, the chefs, the porters, and the lore of the train that ranges from an odd sexual encounter in the baggage car to the effect of altitude on Alzheimer's, from train crashes and criminals to the history of dining cars. Kisor is especially knowledgeable about food, from the way it is gathered, cooked, and served to the way people are seated in the dining car. And there is much about toilets, the ``tidiness'' of those who can afford sleepers and the problems of plumbing. The author also has much to tell about mating rituals, the predatory nature of women especially, the charged atmosphere of the lounge car (``Casbah on Amtrak''), and sexuality in general from harassment to homophobia, including the obscure autobiography of a lesbian ``brakeman'' that Kisor narrates to a lesbian novelist who's his dinner companion and one of the few to be spared his judgmental—or his uncharitable and stereotyping—social observations. There is the ``rat-faced man'' who assumed a fraudulent identity, the ``human hedgehog'' adolescent with the Mohawk haircut, Mildred ``of the detachable virginity,'' and a transvestite dubbed ``Tootsie'' who plays a part in an ``amusing'' anecdote about trying to find a suitable dinner companion for Kisor. A chapter is devoted to the author's plans for writing a murder mystery and another to explaining why, as a lip- reading deaf person, he had to take along a translator. Presented as a microcosm in the tradition of Ship of Fools, this seems, rather, a petty and misogynistic take on the worthless passengers riding a great train served by a caring and conscientious crew.

Pub Date: March 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8129-1984-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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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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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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