A treat for armchair travelers and bookish Francophiles.


American and English writers respond—most, exultantly—to la belle France and its possibilities.

Editor Powers (Ireland in Mind, 2000, etc.) has the right idea: to let mostly good, mostly familiar authors offer their English-speaking compatriots insight into another country. In this instance, she gathers selections from the usual suspects (Lawrence Durrell, F. Scott Fitzgerald), from writers associated with France but not often anthologized in that context (James Baldwin, Mary McCarthy), and from authors better known for their portrayals of other cultures (Robert Louis Stevenson, Edith Wharton). Most of her 33 selections are sound, or at least defensible, though including the likes of Peter Mayle and David Sedaris seems more a bow to commerce than to art. But there is art aplenty here, and even some surprises. One is an excerpt from the travel diaries of Ezra Pound, who walked across southwestern France in 1912, on the trail of his beloved troubadours, and has seldom sounded better: “Whether it is a haze of heat or whether it is only the effect of sunlight & of great distance, I do not know, but there come with these mts, as the sun lowers, a colour at once metallic & oriental, as of a substance both dim & burnished.” Another is a letter from 18th-century novelist Tobias Smollett, who wonders how it is that Lyons could have been promoted as a healthful retreat, seeing as it is “very hot in summer, and very cold in winter; therefore I imagine must abound with inflammatory and intermittent disorders in the spring and fall of the year.” Still another standout is a selection from James Fenimore Cooper; though strongly associated with New York and the American West, he lived in France for a decade and marvels here that in this civilized nation a person could rent an apartment that comes with furniture—and, even better, catch a glimpse of a woman’s knees.

A treat for armchair travelers and bookish Francophiles.

Pub Date: March 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-71435-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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



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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?