In a stirring essay on America's past and future, octogenarian novelist Michener (The World is My Home, 1992, etc.) outlines his native land's strong and weak points, and his hopes and fears for America's future. Drawing on his travels, historical research, and experiences in politics, Michener cites numerous criteria for determining the country's strength: social and monetary stability, a political system that allows for an orderly transfer of power, an adequate health care system and effective schools and free libraries, adequate employment opportunities for the young, the existence of a tax system that balances wealth between rich and poor, the prevalence of churches that provide moral guidance, the existence of recreational and cultural opportunity, and equitable treatment of disparate ethnic groups. While acknowledging America's defects in some of these areas, the author characterizes the US as a country basically noble (that is, generous and courageous) in purpose and qualities, but he argues that several trends threaten to diminish America's nobility as a society. Although his analysis of the characteristics of a noble society may be controversial in some particulars, Michener will encounter little disagreement in his diagnosis of the US's principal problems: rising violence (he blames it on America becoming too much of a "macho" society), deteriorating families, a declining educational system, the shift from a producing to a consuming economy, declining health care, and ominously worsening racial relations. In his analysis of the results of the congressional elections of 1994, Michener rejects facile nostrums of the left and right in arguing that while some Republican ideas should be supported (like tort reform), many others should be opposed as undermining the nation. Among these are proposals to ban deficit spending, return a great deal of federal power to the states, and eliminate affirmative action programs. Not all will agree with the specifics of Michener's arguments; still, the author makes an admirable effort to define what has made our country great and how to preserve what is best about it.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-45152-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996



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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