In the ruins, stories that stun.

STORIES I STOLE

Harsh, lovely prose chronicles the author’s two years in post-Soviet Georgia.

Steavenson adheres to a rough chronology in this collection of animated snapshots of a region devastated by war, political sleaze, poverty, greed, and graft. She begins in a remote village with the story of a man assembling a Stalin theme park and ends by expressing the almost featherless hope that “the best we can do is respect our family, love our friends, open a bottle of wine, drink it, and then open another one.” In between are moments of wonder, weirdness, wisdom, and terror. Coming off a stint writing for Time magazine, the author was between lives in the Georgian town of Tbilisi. She drank a lot, waited for the power to go on (it was off most of the time), frequented the public baths, and took trips with friends to places that offered the prospect of wine or wonder—usually both. She slept in the Gorbachevs’ bed in their former dacha; she ate fried brains and explored the story of a ruinous lovers’ duel; she hiked high in the mountains to witness a horse race; she painted Eduard Shevardnadze in dark, unflattering colors (she shook his hand and found it limp); she chatted and drank with work crews exploding some 15,000 land mines lying along the Gumista. She also nursed a broken heart after falling in love with “Thomas,” who dumped her and then returned nine months later to propose marriage. (She declined.) She shows us a landscape so cluttered with debris and decay (not unexpectedly, she alludes to “Ozymandias”) that by the end we think almost lovely a description of a cow urinating in the marketplace mud. What appears to appeal to Steavenson—and to keep her in Georgia (she was born in the US and grew up in London)—is the candor, kindness, and daffy equanimity of the people. A useful “Ethnic Glossary” helps with the history.

In the ruins, stories that stun.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8021-1737-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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