LOST LANDSCAPES

IN SEARCH OF ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER AND THE JEWS OF POLAND

Despite some fascinating vignettes and quotes, this is a somewhat disjointed attempt to write two books in one: a biographical collage of the Polish-Jewish-American Nobel laureate and a look at pre- and post-Holocaust Polish Jews and gentiles. A Polish historian and poet, Tuszynska has interviewed dozens of Singer's friends, critics, and other readers, mainly in the US and Israel, and captures the disagreeable as well as the admirably imaginative parts of his personality. For example, concerning his miserliness, she quotes Singer as having once told a waiter, ``I'd like to give you a larger tip, but my heart won't let me.'' Tuszynska offers some pungent insights into Singer's fiction, such as observing that he ``blasphemed, provoked, desecrated everything holy. Not from a wish to shock, but in the name of truth about the sorrows of human desires.'' Yet ultimately her mosaic of quotes and vignettes adds little to Janet Hadda's recent biography of Singer, and the memoirs of his son, Israel, and of his long-time assistant, Devorah Menashe Telushkin. Tuszynska's look at contemporary Poland and its Jews makes for interesting if depressing reading, revealing vitriolic anti-Semitism, strong misconceptions and remarkable ignorance about Jews among the Christian population (according to one poll, 25 percent of Poles believe their country is inhabited by 350,000 to 3.5 million Jews; the actual number is less than 20,000). Unfortunately, there is nothing here about the attempts by some Polish historians, Catholic priests, intellectuals, and others to gain a far more sophisticated understanding of the Polish-Jewish relationship—a project of which her own book is a part. Tuszynska also omits explanatory notes and sources for many of her quotes. Thus, she records without comment the entirely erroneous claim in one memoir that ``if a Jew's wife died, he had to sit at home in mourning for 14 days, eating once a day and not moving.'' While Tuszynska has gathered a great deal of colorful and revealing material, her two subjects aren't well integrated and are portrayed somewhat sketchily.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-688-12214-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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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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