WORMHOLES

ESSAYS AND OCCASIONAL WRITINGS

The celebrated English novelist gathers his essays of four decades in one volume. Best known for his novels, which include classic works such as The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Fowles now offers a collection of essays and “occasional pieces” written between 1963 and 1997. The book comprises 30 disparate pieces, divided into four categories: “Autobiographical,” “Culture and Society,” “Literature and Literary Criticism,” and “Nature and the Nature of Nature.” Fowles enthusiasts will be grateful for the book. The master’s ruminations will deepen their understanding of his fictional world, perhaps especially the section on nature. However, those not already in thrall to Fowles’s imagination are not likely to be persuaded or even attracted by this omnium-gatherum of odds and ends. Curiously, Fowles seems uneasy as an essayist. It is, for example, a leitmotif of this volume for him to declare that he does not care what “the academics” think. He claims this so often that it becomes clear that “the academics”—whoever they may be—bother him a great deal and that he in fact does care what they think. This unnecessary combat with phantoms makes him appear defensive and unsure of himself. Consequently it undermines his reader’s confidence in the surefootedness of his critical stance. He is at his best when completely unapologetic, as in comments of this sort: “Above all I loathe the drift (a kind of fascism of the majority) that would so homogenize, suburbanize, and ‘democratize’ life as to make it lose all it varieties and roughnesses—make it, like margarine, ‘easy to spread.— “ Take that to Starbucks and sip it. In the end, though shot through with veins of gold, this collection also contains its share of slag and dross.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5867-2

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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