BLOOM'S MORNING

TOOTHPASTE, TOASTERS, AND THE SECRET MEANING OF EVERYDAY LIFE

An admittedly irreverent stab at leveling the distinction between elite and popular culture by transmogrifying the ho-hum (the master bedroom, the garbage disposal) into the ``mythic'' in the semiological tradition of Roland Barthes. Berger (Communications/San Francisco State Univ.) maintains a decidedly casual posture in his extended introduction (``On the Theory of Everyday Life'') and conclusion, as though to filter out the usual academic snobbery. His case for ``sociosemiotics'' is convincing enough: ``Culture is no longer . . . just frosting on the cake of life''; the activities and artifacts of, say, a representative man's morning (Bloom's, pace Joyce) are the legitimate business of postmodern anthropology and, as such, the new cultural studies. The less convincing centerpiece here—a ``microminimalist'' narrative that takes Bloom from wake-up through ablutions to receipt of his mail, followed by 35 explications de texte—reads too often like an overwrought effort to decode what first must be proved to be in code. The digital clock, which ``atomizes'' time into discrete, unrelated moments, is an emblem of alienation; the down comforter goes beyond man-made science to ``natural technology.'' ``I confess to some tricks—exaggeration, irony, absurdity, wild analogies . . . whatever it takes,'' Berger winks at the end, and while that revelation of a sense of humor about himself vitiates some unwonted solemnity, it doesn't cover all of it, like the notion that breakfast is overarchingly ``a study in transformations'' or the too-serious claim that the king- size bed is an oedipal symbol because king = father and Everyman can make it in (to) the father's bed. Berger can't be taken to account for the whole discipline of belaboring the banal—Barthes found ``signification'' in detergent, to cite just one of his respectable reference points—so to the extent that this reads like a parody of itself, he's only partly responsible. The rest (the theory) is responsible, if cavalier. (40 b&w drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8133-3230-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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