America's Great Plains—as seen through a glass darkly. In 1990, as British novelist Davies (Dollarville, 1989) cruised mid-America in an old Ford pickup, he might have crossed paths with Dayton Duncan, who was exploring roughly the same area in a GMC Suburban, preparing to report on his trip in Miles from Nowhere (p. 345). But the Briton and the Yankee found two very different countries. While Duncan took as his metaphor the land's vast emptiness, Davies takes as his its raging storms, particularly its numerous tornadoes, magnificent but deadly. And unlike Duncan's approach—respectful, even reverent, with deep delving into the region's history—Davies's take is sassy, sharp, and alienated, with little attention to the past: ``I was back in the heart of America now....It's the nearest thing I know to going to the moon- -and I love it.'' But does he really? No doubt Davies is in awe of the Midwest and its wild weather—his strongest passages here, crackling with energy, describe storms he evaded or chased—but he finds much to criticize harshly as well, from missile bases to racism (particularly against Native Americans, a theme that dominates the many—and filler-dull—pages detailing his visit to the South Dakota set of the film Thunderheart) to drunks and fools (about two Utah motel-owners: ``I'm talking a comedy double act of congenital idiots here, a short and shapeless mother and daughter, both lank of hair, slack of lip, stale of odor''). Throughout, one senses that although Davies looks with gusto at all the right places—a baseball game, a rodeo, a buffalo herd, a dance, a classic diner, and so on—he sees only America's surface, never its beating heart. Lively but not revealing—for that, see the Duncan or Ian Frazier's Great Plains (1989).

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-40885-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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