Volume nine strains a bit to achieve its predecessors' diversity by stretching the definition of ``essay.'' Take, for example, the two longest contributions. In ``Trucking Through the AIDS Belt'' Ted Conover spends time on the road with Central African truckers (``true museums of disease,'' a doctor calls them), while in ``The Last Shot'' Darcy Frey hangs out with black high school basketball players, examining the ``cherished parable'' that college scholarships provide a way out of the ghetto. (Frey has expanded this piece into a book. See p. 1185.) Frey's piece is excellent; Conover's, though more diffuse, is still pretty good. Yet it's questionable whether these in-depth reporting pieces can really be considered ``narrative essays'' (Kidder's term). Other entries collected by series editor Atwan and Pulitzer Prize-winning guest editor Kidder (Old Friends, 1993, etc.) hew more closely to the form. There is cultural commentary: Adam Gopnik on the ``High Morbid Manner'' in contemporary art, Cynthia Ozick finding echoes of Henry James in Salman Rushdie's appearance at a Paris seminar, David Denby celebrating a Dead White Male (Homer) on his return to Columbia nearly 30 years after graduation. There are reflections on our relationship to our habitat (William Langewiesche's marvelously lucid account of aviation's coming of age) and the animals we share it with (Vicki Hearne, in the collection's most delightfully offbeat entry, finding ``deep knowledge about a trained-orangutan act on a Las Vegas stage''). Disappointingly, the collection has only one essay on our political and social relations: James McPherson's vapid consideration of Martin Luther King's ideas about community. Lastly, there are lively autobiographical sketches. Treating a sadistic male patient, Lauren Slater finds surprising links to her anorexic past, while Lucy Grealy, assessing years of reconstructive surgery, ponders the link between the face and the self. Outshining them all is the series' ever-bright star, Stanley Elkin. In incandescent prose, he writes about the worst days of his life (``the season of my madness''); the result is both harrowing and wildly funny. A solid addition to an annual series that has won many plaudits.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-69254-7

Page Count: 321

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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