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PLACES

HABITATS OF A HUMAN LIFETIME

A must-read for anyone interested in the environment—shouldn’t that mean everyone?

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Environmental writer Shabecoff’s (A Fierce Green Fire, 2003, etc.) memoir is informed by his passionate, decades-old interest in the natural (and sometimes urban) environment—what it means to us and how humans have worked assiduously to destroy it.

Each essay describes and comments upon one of the many places where Shabecoff has resided or at least visited in a long career as a writer for the New York Times. These chapters include the summer place he and his wife built in the Berkshires (“The Best Place”), the Bronx neighborhoods where he grew up, the Catskills where, every summer, young Shabecoff and his family escaped the sweltering city, and his sojourns as a journalist in Germany, Japan, Washington, D.C., and many other locales. Toward the end of his career at the Times, he became interested in ecology and continued that interest into his pseudo-retirement. Now nearing 80, he finds it’s time to look back, sometimes fondly, sometimes angrily. Shabecoff is neither a fanatic nor a purist: “I like my wilderness not too wild,” and “I believe in the sanctity of life, but I make exceptions for biting insects.” Over the years, “civilization” encroached on his Berkshire retreat, but he accepts that inevitability with good grace. He is, however, often nostalgic for the environments of his childhood. He now sees the Bronx as a dysfunctional slum, although in his childhood, it had lively ethnic neighborhoods, good schools and clean streets. Set mostly in Washington, D.C., “Every Place” tells the story of the author cutting his teeth as an environmental writer, and he describes the often bitter journalistic wrangling, beginning with the Reagan administration. There’s no love lost between him and conservative administrations whose goal was to privatize everything and give powerful industries free rein. In fact, Shabecoff—who’s rubbed elbows with numerous movers and shakers over the years—never pulls his punches, calling out those he sees on the side of the angels and those not. Readers will also enjoy 10 pages of black-and-white family photos, including Philip and Alice at their beloved Berkshire getaway, which gives the book an extra human touch. As expected from a man who’s dealt with words his whole adult life, the writing is consistently graceful, with rarely a false step. “The Last Place,” for instance, begins on an elegiac note related to mortality, then slowly builds into as bracing a jeremiad against greed and stupidity as readers are likely to find anywhere.

A must-read for anyone interested in the environment—shouldn’t that mean everyone?

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615686189

Page Count: 282

Publisher: PLACES

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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