ON THE PLAIN OF SNAKES

A MEXICAN JOURNEY

Illuminating, literate, and timely—a must-read for those interested in what’s going on inside Mexico.

A veteran traveler explores our complex neighbor to the south.

Accomplished travel writer and novelist Theroux (Figures in a Landscape: People and Places, 2018, etc.) has been writing about his travels for more than 50 years. Like his previous accounts, this journey, narrated in his usual, easygoing, conversational style, includes countless lovely descriptions of Mexico’s landscapes and insights into the country’s history and literature, including Mexican magical realism. Being a naturally inquisitive guy, Theroux talks to the people he meets, everywhere and often, because “it is in the nature of travel to collect and value telling anecdotes.” This “shifty migrant” chronicles his navigation of cities, towns, and tiny villages on both side of the borderlands, a “front line that sometimes seems a war, at other times an endless game of cat and mouse.” Most Mexicans Theroux met “said urgently to me, ‘Be careful.’ ” He cites harrowing statistics of the violence that occurs near the border. “On their trip through Mexico,” he writes, “…migrants are brutalized, abducted, or forced to work on Mexican farms, as virtual slaves. In the past decade, 120,000 migrants have disappeared en route, murdered or dead and lost, succumbing to thirst or starvation.” The author also discusses NAFTA and how it turned the “Mexican side of the border into a plantation, a stable supply of cheap labor.” He writes about the thousands of gallons of water at aid stations destroyed by the border police and his encounters with Mexican police who, with a wink and a nod, accepted bribes for made-up charges. Outside Mexico City, he visited Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, a “kind of habitable sculpture.” He also experienced a Day of the Dead ceremony and drank homemade mezcal. “I had made friends on the road through the plain of snakes,” he writes, “and that had lifted my spirits.”

Illuminating, literate, and timely—a must-read for those interested in what’s going on inside Mexico.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-86647-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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