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An existential guide, though not despairing; these small urban essays are both illuminating place studies and highly...

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Pinsky explores a wide swath of the United States from an unlikely venue—the saddle of a bike—and comes back with gold.

An avid cyclist, Pinsky had grown weary of the bucolic and went looking for a new biking experience. He wound up in Philadelphia and discovered that the city’s kaleidoscopic variety energized him: the people, land use, landscape, architecture, street art; it was all there and, on a bike, it was all very close, heightening his sensory awareness. Pinsky tenders these urban vignettes in a voice inflected with curiosity, polychromatic but blissfully even in tone, thoughtful and considerate of the reader. He’s not writing to strut his stuff, be it literary (though he writes with deceptive ease) or physical accomplishment, but to inform and inspire. He is appealingly unheroic—these are not mighty slogs but shortish hops done on a shoestring: his budget is $100 per trip, and he’s accustomed to Super 8 motels and Subway sandwiches. Yet if found in a less-than-savory neighborhood, with safety beckoning to the right, he’s apt to turn left: “There’s a whole lot more I have to see here,” he says. He has done his homework, bracing himself with the history of the cities he tours, but he allows serendipity to fashion his routes. And he gets around, to all four corners of the country and into all manner of neighborhood, from seedy to tony, industrial to commercial to residential. He is open to their atmosphere—if Cleveland wasn’t pretty, “the city had a certain compelling presence about it”—and compassionate without pulling punches: “there was only sandy dirt covering the yards and no sidewalks, giving many of these areas a third-world look.” He closes with a ride around his home streets of Washington, D.C., and it is a lovely example of what might be called deep riding: being familiar, he probes the area’s most exquisitely remote and unexpected offerings.

An existential guide, though not despairing; these small urban essays are both illuminating place studies and highly motivational to get pedaling.

Pub Date: May 18, 2010

ISBN: 978-0615369556

Page Count: 254

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2011

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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 19, 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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