Originally published in France in 1948, and here translated for the first time into English, this captivating journal records American culture as seen by the young, fiercely intelligent Beauvoir. Her observations rove in topic from “the dream of rootedness” to “the giddy exhilaration of the car and the wind,” and from the American obsession with material satisfaction to the nature of individual freedom. Beauvoir lands in New York in January of 1947, equipped with four flexible months, a promising letter of introduction from her companion, Jean-Paul Sartre, and The Second Sex not yet written. Though she’s a literary sensation, she’s anonymous on the street, which proves to be a huge advantage. Beauvoir travels from New York to Los Angeles and back by car, train, and Greyhound, relishing the “lavish monotony” of a landscape unlike Europe in its ’splendid stubbornness.” She’s enchanted by the optimism and affability she finds around her, by “the specific American poetry—of the drugstore. She wanders into Chicago’s bar-hopping morphine underworld with her lover Nelson Algren; she also mingles with the dreamy and disillusioned youth of America’s Ivy League. As the Red Scare accelerates, she grows preoccupied with the American fixation on liberty. She’s struck by our passion for solitude, coupled with our voyeuristic interest in the lives of the rich and famous. Sometimes she rants, clinging to her identity as a French intellectual while condemning the “ghastly opulence” of the US. Beauvoir remains both “dazzled” and “disappointed” by the extravagance of her subject, by “the battle it is waging with itself, in which the stakes are beyond measure.” Brainy and imaginative, critical and rhapsodic—and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-520-20979-6

Page Count: 355

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998



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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