Theater critic, dramaturge, and Village Voice staff writer Solomon (English and Theater/City Univ. of New York Graduate Center) offers a fresh, authoritative view of the canon as the seat, not the nemesis, of postmodern gender theory. Solomon pairs close textual readings of gender complexity in Shakespeare, Ibsen, Aristophanes, and Brecht with reviews of avant-garde productions that unleashed what she considers the inherent trangressiveness of these writers' works. While feminist and queer theorists see only a reinforcement of heterosexism and phallocentricity even in the canon's most ribald gender-bending, Solomon sees real subversion—an invitation to question gender norms. In her analysis of the British theater troupe Cheek by Jowl's all-male production of As You Like It, the Mabou Mines role-reversed King Lear (Lear is played by a woman), the Yiddish King Lear, Charles Ludlum's Hedda Gabler, and the Split Britches' deconstructed A Streetcar Named Desire, Solomon sees a proper rediscovery of all the ``polymorphous potential'' endemic to these plays. To Solomon, these iconoclastic productions were neither as inventive nor as disrespectful as we might think. On the contrary, they did justice for the first time to the richness of these classic texts. The crusty greats deserve more credit than we've given them, argues Solomon. They understood quite well, as did the Puritans who banned their art in Cromwell's England, that theater, as imitation, as performance, as self-consciousness, as irony, is tailor-made for revolt against the social shackles, not just of gender, but of class, race, and sexuality. Solomon is convincing and refreshingly nondogmatic. She has the knowledge, style, and suppleness of mind to make bedfellows of revisionists and dead white males. Her dissent is helpful, not dismissive, inclusive, not harsh. This invaluable contribution to the canon wars is rare manna from academia. (12 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 1998

ISBN: 0-415-15720-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Routledge

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...



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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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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