European-celeb biographer Pochna writes a serviceable history of Christian Dior on the 50th anniversary of the ``New Look.'' In February 1947 Dior launched a postwar fashion revolution, dubbed the New Look by Harper's Bazaar. Dior, 42 when the first collection was shown, was a late bloomer. Not fashionable-looking at all, he was a chubby, bald man (he once escaped a Chicago train station filled with angry demonstrators awaiting his arrival because he didn't resemble anyone's idea of a fashion arbiter). He was born in Normandy to upper-middle-class parents who made their fortune manufacturing fertilizer. He disappointed his family by having no aptitude for their business, and sadly, they did not live to see him become the first couturier to make millions licensing his name. Dior spent an exhilarating youth mixing with the revolutionary artists of 1920s Paris. During the Depression, when his father lost his entire fortune, Christian began to work as a fashion illustrator and designer. After the war, he was bankrolled in his own house by the textiles billionaire Marcel Boussac. Dior envisioned ``a very small, very exclusive house . . . going back to the great traditions of luxury in French couture.'' He wanted to design for a few elegant, exquisite women, and after the deprivations of war, he wanted to make women beautiful again. Pochna uses the present-tense and lots of exclamation points to re-create the excitement of the debut showing, when the world first saw his tight bodices, wasp waists, and skirts made of 40 yards of material. The book is marred by repetitions and some contradictions (e learn three times, for example, that Dior's mother would have hated to see his name in front of a shop). Pochna exhibits a personal charm that must have helped win her some difficult interviews, but the bio often seems disjointed and unpolished. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55970-340-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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

Close Quickview