Codrescu (English/Louisiana State Univ.), prolific author and NPR journalist, treats us to a 12-day idiosyncratic vacation 90 miles and a world apart from the US. The pope’s visit to Cuba early last year was the provocation. Not to be influenced by the papal presence, Codrescu (Hail, Babylon: In Search of the American City at the End of the Millennium, 1998. etc.), with his NPR team, beat His Holiness by several days to the “laboratory of pre-post-communism.” Our man in Havana found the capital to be in physical decay and the population largely intriguing and warm, from the spellbinding, soothsaying Babalaos to the street-smart teenage hustlers. From the cafes in Havana to the mysterious lairs of Santiago de Cuba, he can report that reverence for the Maximum Leader is less than sweeping. The “Querido Commandante Che Guuevara” song, however, is quite prevalent. Afro-Cuban religiosity, rum and dollars are more popular than socialism, and venery apparently tops all the charts. Codrescu, of course, comes by his dubiety of things Marxist quite naturally, having spent his tender ye+ars in the Romania of Ceausescu. Also natural to him is a felicitous style. There’s the distinct aroma of gonzo mixed with dialectics and a pinch of Swiss Family Perelman, but it’s all Codrescu. People take precedence over plot. (A set-up about trouble with a picture album never pays off). The author and his crew meet a variety of folk whom he invests with appeal. The octogenarian comic Al Lewis and the great El Duque Hernandez bracket snapshots of boys selling Cohibas and girls selling pleasant tarriance. The text is punctuated by photos by David Graham and poetry composed collectively by Codrescu’s pilgrims. As with the best of the travel genre, the tour is personal and selective. It’s often engaging and enlightening, too. A natural-born journalist provides an entertaining, under-the-covers tour. (16 pages color photos, 40 b&w photos).

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19831-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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