Journalist Steinbach is a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the award was given for feature articles written for the Baltimore Sun,...

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THE MISS DENNIS SCHOOL OF WRITING: And Other Lessons from a Woman's Life

Journalist Steinbach is a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the award was given for feature articles written for the Baltimore Sun, not for this motley assortment of reflections on ""the small events that make up a life."" In the footsteps of other essayists and columnists--Erma Bombeck and Steinbach's hero E.B. White among them--Steinbach digs for the universal in the personal, and from time to time, she strikes pay dirt. Among her favorite, and more successful, subjects are her sons, her cats (in particular the charismatic Max), and her late mother. Tired and dated are observations on Gloria Steinem, Martha Stewart, and dieting. The essays are corraled into the usual categories, including relationships, raising children, childhood memories, work and growing older, with each section introduced by a brief commentary. The Miss Dennis of the title was the author's ninth-grade creative-writing teacher, who loved Emily Dickinson and directed her students to ""pay attention"" and to ""find [a] unique voice."" Steinbach clearly learned how to pay attention--she is, after all, an award-winning reporter--but she is still tuning her rather self-conscious voice. Nevertheless, there are some memorable turns of phrase here. Regarding wishing for the ""world on a string"" vs. small satisfactions like an uninterrupted supper hour, she says: ""Small hopes . . . are a lot like dogs: They tend to come when they're called."" There are also tender memories of her mother in the garden and her father on vacation. Steinbach's eye for eloquent detail is conveyed in only a few pieces here, among them ""Pioneer Women."" Overall, Miss Dennis would not be happy. Resurrected from the newspaper morgue, these pieces tend to lose whatever punch they may initially have had.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 320

Publisher: "Bancroft (P.O. Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209)"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996