ONE WAY TO SPELL MAN

ESSAYS WITH A WESTERN BIAS

Sixteen brief, readable, but mostly undistinguished essays on writing, American culture, the Far West, and related topics. Stegner is best at close-up appreciations (he does a fine, knowing study of Ansel Adams), weakest at broad-brush literary or sociological theory (forgettable pieces on "The Writer and the Concept of Adulthood," "Excellence and the Pleasure Principle," etc.). Stegner spends much of his time talking about the West as the archetypal American region, a world he's devoted most of his career to. But the spontaneous affection that enlivens these pages often befuddles Stegner's judgment. "The characteristic American relation with the earth persists most strongly in the West," he tells us, not bothering to explain why the rural West (home of James Watt and his following) persists in savaging an environment that other parts of the country would like to see preserved. Stegner's naive faith in regional identity leads him to argue that "A white banker from Atlanta probably has as much in common with a black Georgia sharecropper as he does with another white banker from Salt Lake City or Seattle." Maybe when Stegner was growing up in Montana and Saskatchewan around 1914-1924, but not now. In his uncritical moments Stegner will wax patriotic ("In the process of taming and naming the continent, we produced an economy that was the envy of the world and a political system that despite its clanking has been the model for individual freedom"), only to snap abruptly out of it ("we have spread like ringworm from sea to sea") and sound like a normal guilty liberal. There are flashes of acumen here and there (on Canadian hostility to the US, for example), but otherwise a lackluster show.

Pub Date: April 1, 1982

ISBN: 0385177208

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1982

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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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