For all aspiring Renaissance people, as well as for students of urban design, art history, and early modern European history.

HIS INVENTION SO FERTILE

A LIFE OF CHRISTOPHER WREN

Sometimes plodding, always illuminating biography of the renowned English architect and overachiever.

Christopher Wren (1632–1723), writes British architectural historian Tinniswood, came of age among unusually brilliant contemporaries. His classmates at the Westminster School, for instance, included future Anglican cleric Richard South, future poet John Dryden, and future philosopher John Locke. Even in such distinguished company, young Wren was reckoned to be unusually gifted, and he soon distinguished himself as a prolific coiner of what his family album called “New Theories, Inventions, Experiments, and Mechanick Improvements,” contributing to anatomy, astronomy, optics, cryptography, hydrology, military engineering, textile manufacturing, and agriculture, to name just a few fields. (He was also fond of performing medical experiments on dogs, the details of which are not for the squeamish.) A Leonardo da Vinci for his day, Wren was, Tinniswood demonstrates, practically as well as theoretically minded; he managed to thread his way through complex political tangles in a time of anti-monarchical, anti-Catholic revolution to gain favored status in the courts of several English monarchs. Though appointed professor of astronomy at Oxford at 29, Wren strove for greater renown, which he would achieve by designing St. Paul’s Cathedral and other public buildings in the wake of the Great Fire of London in 1666. As Tinniswood shows, Wren’s ultimately unrealized plans for remaking the city were well ahead of their time, though his trademark hybrid of Gothic and classical styles would be seen as old-fashioned toward the end of his very long life. Tinniswood’s account sometimes gasps under the weight of overabundant detail, but it adds much to our understanding of Wren in the context of his time and as a craftsman whose “holistic approach to design” and “need to control every stage of the process . . . were something new in British architecture.”

For all aspiring Renaissance people, as well as for students of urban design, art history, and early modern European history.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-514898-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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