A restless, curious, at times dark ramble through Saharan outposts from Atlantic Monthly correspondent Langewiesche (Cutting for Sign, 1993). Via ratty bus and dilapidated truck, four-wheel-drive Toyota and riverboat, Langewiesche followed an arc through the Sahara from the Mediterranean south to the savanna, then west to the Atlantic. ``All you need is a suitcase, a bit of cash, an occasional bus ticket, the intention to move on,'' he modestly claims. But this was hard travel, on a shoestring, surrounded by an uncompromising and hostile environment, a landscape full of danger: from bandits to insurrectionists, from cruel, rapacious border police to a particularly nasty death from thirst. He went looking for desert and he found it: high peaks, ``pink and yellow dunes, blue craggy cliffs, black volcanic rubble,'' a village so hot that the wind burned. Langewiesche conjures the heat so palpably that readers may feel threatened, overwhelmed, ready to swoon. Sere, indeed, but everywhere there are people—fixers and connivers, expats bitching in the Algerian wasteland, judges and wayfarers and smugglers—so he spends some time with them, coming away with a beguiling human geography. It's not all barchan and oasis, for there are cities in the sand: Langewiesche samples conspiratorial Algiers, hopelessly stranded Nouakchott, inglorious Timbuktu, slummy Bamako. And being a savvy journalist, he brings the background into the picture, detailing French colonial history (with a goodly array of eccentric, at times inspired, personalities), the ongoing Islamic revolution and Tuareg rebellion, the political evolution of the Saharan states and their current travails, the flowering of Fulani culture, 10,000 years back, that produced Tadart's wondrous rock art. If ``the desert teaches by taking away,'' as cautions Langewiesche—snatching water, whole towns, one's sanity—then this book is a rare desert gift. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42982-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1996



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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