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Extremely broad, frustratingly shallow.

A stroll through the history of some food taboos that have caught the author's fancy, loosely organized around the seven deadly sins.

With much enthusiasm and a generous spirit of inclusion, Allen (The Devil’s Cup, 1999) has rooted around in the annals of food lore to turn up an overwhelming number of sketches, historical vignettes, and general information about foods that have been considered “sinful” in some way, by someone, somewhere. Allen's anecdotes run the gamut, from “the politics of the baguette” to an exploration of folks who like to eat clay to the author's personal experience with a bottle of 1898 Absinthe. Ostensibly organized around the seven deadly sins, the numerous two- or three-page vignettes are, in fact, most tenuously linked; even the dishes on the menus that introduce each chapter seem to get swallowed up somewhere in the heaps of facts about more or less obscure comestibles. But the author's got a mercifully light touch, a finely tuned ear for a story, and an enthusiastic pitch, giving a potentially dry discussion the essence of cocktail conversation—frothy, informative, and fast. One can hear partygoers chatting about the culture of dog-eating around the world, or how an ancient Moon Goddess struck down her worshippers for having bad breath. Not everyone can take an anecdote about a White Supremacist and turn it into a whimsical musing on the history of “bean baiting.” In fact, Allen has done some respectable research (documented in a bibliography over 20 pages long). Unfortunately, without an organizing principle that can draw the reader through the pages, Allen's abundance of work and talent seems mostly squandered.

Extremely broad, frustratingly shallow.

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-44015-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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