THE SEARCH FOR AFRICA

HISTORY, CULTURE, POLITICS

A mixed bag of 20 essays and lectures (most reprinted from The New Statesman and other journals) by Africa-expert Davidson (The Black Man's Burden, 1992, etc.), selected by the author in commemoration of his 80th birthday. The best essays here were chosen by Davidson because, he says, they offer ``a line of thought that can illuminate one of the truly liberating achievements, cultural achievements, of the twentieth century: the reinstallation of Africa's peoples within the cultures of the world.'' In ``The Search for Africa's Past,'' for instance, the author discusses not only the seminal role that the West African gold trade played in creating the prosperity of ``late- medieval Europe,'' but also the many kingdoms that existed throughout Africa in precolonial times—kingdoms that Davidson thinks would have evolved into strong nation-states if the Europeans had allowed them to do so. Elsewhere, in ``Africa and the Invention of Racism,'' Davidson points out how, in the late 17th century, attitudes toward Africa changed for the worse: Before then, he explains, Europeans ``believed that they had found forms of civilization which were often comparable with their own, however variously dressed or mannered.'' But other essays included here- -especially those on South Africa, Angola, and the African peasantry—seem not only dated but often wrong. In particular, ``Southern Africa: Progress or Disaster?,'' written shortly before Nelson Mandela was released, suggests outcomes for South Africa far removed from what actually took place. Moreover, the laying of blame by Davidson (a committed socialist) on capitalism for all of Africa's ills is less than persuasive, especially in ``Nationalism and Africa's Self-Transformation,'' which faults the African nationalists who ``hoped to build independent capitalist systems based on deepening class stratification and bourgeois hegemony,'' as well as the colonialists who, he says, wished to establish a ``subcapitalist dependency.'' Davidson has his biases, and they show—but so, too, do his great affection and goodwill for a continent too often maligned or ignored.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8129-2278-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1993

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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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