A mixed bag, but with rewards for fans of Schama’s scholarly tours de force, such as The Embarrassment of Riches (1987) and...



Historian and UK TV personality Schama (Art History and History/Columbia Univ.; The American Future: A History, 2009, etc.) gathers scattered pieces, mostly journalistic, blending scholarship and pop culture.

It’s a little tough to imagine, say, T.S. Eliot writing at any length on pinball or air hockey, but roll with it: Schama has all the Oxbridge credentials and is a bona fide intellectual, but he’s also a consumer of food, film, art and other less musty pursuits than haunting the library stacks. Here he roams among pursuits, genially and for the most part without undue stuffiness. An early piece in the collection is an account, published in the New Yorker, of a transatlantic crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2, nice work if you can get it; as if channeling George Steiner, Schama sniffs that it is possible, with all the shipboard amusements, for passengers “who may have mixed feelings about the ocean to ignore it.” He makes up for the petulance, though, by providing a quick historical survey of the amenities available to, say, Charles Dickens and anyone with the means to book passage on the luxury liner today. Elsewhere, the author performs an almost obligatory homage to Isaiah Berlin, dean of his generation of scholars and possessor of a sublimely humane intelligence. Scholarly and popular essays on Churchill, Shakespeare and Charlotte Rampling follow before Schama settles down to the poppiest of his pop-culture subjects, namely food, even as he worries that “the sheer ubiquity and quantity of food-wording has…lowered the bar of quality.” No worries here, for the author’s writing on food is fresh and interesting, as are his remarks at the end of the collection on how to train a generation of younger scholars to be relevant, if not employable on television.

A mixed bag, but with rewards for fans of Schama’s scholarly tours de force, such as The Embarrassment of Riches (1987) and Landscape and Memory (1995).

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-200986-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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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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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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