A VED MEHTA READER

THE CRAFT OF AN ESSAY

paper 0-300-07561-8 Longtime New Yorker writer Mehta (Remembering Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker, 1998, etc.) takes on the “awkward task”of selecting pieces representative of his 40-year career. Mehta published his first book in 1957 at the age of 21 following his first year at Oxford. He would write 20 more, many autobiographical or based on essays that originally appeared in the New Yorker, whose editor, William Shawn, taught Mehta the “principles of good writing . . . clarity, harmony, truth, and unfailing courtesy to the reader.” At his best, Mehta is a stylist whose personal fascination with a subject can lend energy to the essay form, as in “The Train Had Just Arrived at Malgudi Station,” his lengthy profile of Indian novelist R.K. Narayan. Conducted in New York, his interviews of Narayan do reveal both the literary figure and the man. Sitting in Narayan’s borrowed apartment on East 57th Street, chewing betel nut, the two men range in conversational topics from Narayan’s takes on Western writers—mostly “bores,” such as Joyce, Hemingway, and Faulkner—to tearful recollections of his late wife. Mehta also does a marvelous job in “Nonviolence” of examining Mahatma Gandhi’s controversial celibacy and how this ahimea, or “love force,” prepared him for his history-making work. However, Mehta is sometimes indubitably long-winded, as in his overly long piece on the spite and vitriol of British philosophers in the early 1960s, which has little to recommend it. He relies on interviews with “John,” an Oxford lecturer who spoke “too frankly and unprofessionally to wish to be identified.” And Mehta’s dry presentation of stale data in his 1970 article on Calcutta’s poverty is relieved only by his brief look at some early criticisms of Mother Teresa (e.g., her lack of medically trained staff and her grandstanding acceptance of only “the most extreme and dramatic cases”). Too many pieces here are too mired in the time when they were written to endure.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07189-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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NUTCRACKER

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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IN MY PLACE

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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