BY THE SEAT OF MY PANTS

MY LIFE IN COUNTRY MUSIC

Country boy from dirt poverty makes millions as a Nashville publisher/producer/writer. Those hoping for another howitzer of a tell-all tale like Scott Faragher's Music City Babylon (1992) will be disappointed with Killen's soft-spoken approach. Born in 1932 in Florence, Alabama, Killen grows up in a one-room shack with seven siblings, all of whom have to spend their summers chopping cotton in order to survive. The sole family entertainment is singing and playing music together and, by age 19, the talented author is working out of Nashville, at first singing and writing and then touring on the road. At this point, the narrative descends into tedious descriptions of an interminable string of bean-eating nights of second-tier performers and forgotten hopefuls. But Killen's story picks up when he puts a $50 reel-to-reel tape recorder on his car seat and starts talent-scouting and publishing. When, 35 years later, he decides to sell his publishing company, Tree, CBS gives him $40 million for it and he remains CEO. Killen indulges in some gossip here and there in his text, but by today's standards, hardly sensational: e.g., that the group Exile took so many stimulants that they fired Killen as their manager; that country- star Joe Tex, with whom the author wrote four #1 hits, got started on drugs by a woman who gave him angel dust, and that he was found dead in his swimming pool only four years later (Killen's grief for his friend's early death seems genuine). Best for country-music buffs and scholars, particularly with its descriptions of the Nashville growth years in the 50's and 60's. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen)

Pub Date: June 21, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-79540-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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