Smart and fast-paced; one of the better pieces to appear so far in this anniversary year.



On the Road, celebrating its 50th birthday, may have been composed in a white heat. But, as Kerouac scholar Maher ably shows in this biography of the book and its author, it took years for that heat to build.

Kerouac’s famed friendship with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs dates to the mid-1940s; later in the decade he learned the word “beat” from Burroughs, who, Maher notes, learned it from writer Herbert Huncke, whom Kerouac called “the greatest storyteller I’ve ever known.” Huncke used the word as a synonym for “poor,” but Kerouac exalted, characteristically, “like sleeping in the subways, like Huncke used to do, and yet being illuminated and having illuminated ideas about apocalypse and all that.” Kerouac’s borrowing would make him, famously, the spokesman for the so-called Beat Generation a decade later, after On the Road was published in 1957. Kerouac’s epochal book, too, Maher chronicles, took shape in the late 1940s, when depressive Kerouac (“the experience of life is a regular series of deflections that finally results in a circle of despair”) and madcap generational bad influence Neal Cassady tore around the country on a few epic amphetamine- and beer-fueled car trips, visiting such places as Oakland, with its “most interesting skid row in America,” and Denver, where poor hive-beset polyamorous Cassady kept multiple households. The movement was constant, Cassady covering, as Maher carefully records, “4,943 miles across the country” in a single week and Kerouac’s logging more than 8,000 miles by thumb, rail and other suitably apocalyptic hobo contrivances. Publisher Robert Giroux began to court Kerouac as a prospective author in the late 1940s and publish him in 1950 as well, but, as Maher writes, “the next seven years would test [Kerouac’s] endurance as a writer harshly,” finally yielding his breakthrough book.

Smart and fast-paced; one of the better pieces to appear so far in this anniversary year.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-56025-991-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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