ONCE A DANCER...

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

A daffy and unexpectedly poignant autobiography by the beguiling Balanchine ballerina celebrated in her heyday as a ``rubber orchid.'' Kent, born Iris Margo Cohen in 1937 ``on the very day Edith Wharton died, but in a different time zone,'' repossesses as a writer the unpredictable charm of her dancing. She is zanily elegant, summing up the young Edward Villella's virtuoso hallmark as his ``pronging springbok elevation.'' (And she assesses her own in this way: ``There was a bit of Isadora and mountain goat in my dancing.'') Her life sounds like that of a struggling heroine in a novel by Mona Simpson—frequently stranded, broke, desperate, abused, or abandoned, yet well served by a fey kind of gumption. During a childhood spent in constant transit between east, west, and south American coasts, Kent studied ballet with Bronislava Nijinksa and Carmelita Maracci before entering the School of American Ballet in New York. There she was singled out early, joining the New York City Ballet while still a teenager. Though Kent's narrative bent is too flirty to allow for analysis of Balanchine's work or of her fellow dancers, she shares festively witty peeks at the ballet establishment. Kent also lacks the instinct for sustained introspection, which limits her ability to fathom her family's chronic instability or her own difficult marriage to a drug-addicted, philandering photographer. As a onetime Christian Scientist whose career, paradoxically, was badly, briefly compromised by the effects of amateurish plastic surgery, she is replete with unprobed psychological corners. The story of her losses is at times very painful. Still, Kent can't fail to enchant with her odd tales of artist-friend Joseph Cornell, New York City Ballet colleague Violette Verdy's ``yelp therapy,'' and her own pregnancy (``My stomach was a large, round, hard dome like a planetarium'').

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15051-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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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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