With a simplicity of language belying a deeply rich and subtle imagery, novelist Olmstead (American by Land, 1993, etc.) produces a variegated narrative, dreamlike in its reflection of passing youth yet rooted in the earthy prose of farm life, and always achingly hued by an 18-year-old's nascent awareness of mortality. "Memory is always more true to the present mind than to the past," writes Olmstead, "always more true to itself than to anything else." Looking back at his life on his grandfather's New Hampshire dairy farm, Olmstead presents that late adolescent moment when change was imminent but just barely forestalled. Soon to come would be the untimely deaths of his two childhood friends, his father's passing following a long unhappy spiral of alcoholism and failed rehabilitation, and the slow, cancerous death of his grandfather. But also here is Olmstead's initiatory, bittersweet love affair, often described in synesthetic terms, as is much of this perceptive account: "I knew no one who spoke as she did, knew no one whose words were like touch." As can only be fathomed by the adult narrator, there are impending changes in the younger man's life, although the teenager has the wit to infer these changes in the aging of the old farm hands, the dismantling of an ancient grain silo, and the final gathering of his grandfather's siblings on word of the old man's disease. The daily prosaisms among the family and with the hired help are gently humorous yet ineluctably tinged with regret over the transience of familiar things. As the teenager gazes upon his love, he notes, "And then I'd remember how we were in a seam of life on this very day and would soon be pulled from it by our ambitions, by the roads we were on." Written with great-hearted love and compassion in a language full of human longing and frailty, this is a book for anyone who was once young.

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4162-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996



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




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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