Biting words, rollicking entertainment. (16 b&w line drawings)

A trepid traveler bonds with his donkey during a picaresque and picturesque walk across northern Spain.

Moore (French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France, 2000, etc.) brings his hilarious, smart-alecky sensibility to bear on this—well, tale about a 500-mile journey in company with his ass and with some fairly asinine fellow pilgrims. The narrative plan is hardly unique (he begins at the chronological beginning, ends at the end), but he manages the difficult task of maintaining a highly ironic and even sarcastic tone throughout. What makes it all bearable, laughable, and enjoyable is the pure vein of self-deprecation that also runs from start to finish. Moore very rarely waxes superior to anyone (or anyass) but instead chronicles his myriad difficulties in convincing a particularly willful beast of burden to walk with him across Spain at anything like a predictable clip. Along the way, the author visits many of the relevant sites and shrines (the route was walked by some 60,000 pilgrims in 2001) and does an unobtrusive job, when the situation calls for it, of leading us back to the Middle Ages for some explanation and expatiation. (A little history alongside the humiliation.) Small miracles occur on the camino (for example, a Swiss mule expert actually arrives to help with some donkey lameness), but Moore is not seeking any religious significance in things. He appears to be a nonbeliever who very rarely maligns those who do believe. But his conclusions—such as they are—are steadfastly secular. He describes the profane (there are numerous accounts of his donkey’s—and even his own—excretions) as well as the sacred, and he swiftly characterizes (if not caricatures) some of his fellow travelers: a German who insists on saying “monkey” instead of “donkey”; a woman who looks like a Barbie doll; a man who resembles the young John Travolta. Few donkey puns go unexploited (“I was ready to kick some ass”).

Biting words, rollicking entertainment. (16 b&w line drawings)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-32082-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004



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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