PIRANDELLO'S LOVE LETTERS TO MARTA ABBA

In 1925, Pirandello—at age 58 entering the final decade of his life, his wife confined to a mental asylum, his beloved daughter in Brazil—fell in love with a 25-year-old actress, Marta Abba. From 164 of the 522 letters Abba donated to Princeton University Library before her death, Ortalini (Theater/Brooklyn College) meticulously represents Pirandello's obsessive involvement. As he explains in an exhaustive and occasionally feverish introduction, in a scrupulously detailed chronology, repetitive introductions, intrusive footnotes, and an excessively particularized index, the letters reveal Pirandello's suffering, anguish (``see also Depression/Anxiety, Despair''), his dream of a national theater, the perfidy of his ``enemies'' (other playwrights), and his financial difficulties. They also reveal his insomnia, his various physical complaints, his changing attitude toward the art of film that at various times inspired and revolted him, his business dealings, his restless relocations from Italy to Berlin to Paris, England, America, and his growing international reputation that resulted in a Nobel Prize, a private audience with Mussolini, who resented his travels, and the vast amount of money he seems to have made in spite of his complaints about poverty. He offered frequent apologies to Marta, a busy and successful actress, for his obsessive pursuit in what was to remain an unconsummated and unrequited affair. He also reveals a manic side that the editor overlooks, an egomaniacal belief that God is on his side, having put ``true eternal youth'' in his blood, heart, brain, and that he will write great words that will ``astonish the world.'' In these letters, Pirandello is rarely a lover, more often a case, a pathology, in which love is incidental. He displays the whole range of symptoms, the misery, euphoria, obsession, self- involvement, instability, that Freud suggested the creative personality suffered as the price of his art, the torment and energy behind the ostensibly antic Six Characters in Search of an Author.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-691-03499-0

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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