DEADLINE POET

OR, MY LIFE AS A DOGGERELIST

The good, gray Trillin hangs up his prose pistols and rides forth as Poet in his seventeenth book, here collecting three years of comic political verse for The Nation. Best known for his Americana and true-crime stories in The New Yorker, for his fabulous food reportage from Kansas City, Louisiana, and elsewhere, and for Remembering Denny, his 1993 bestseller about a friend who committed suicide, Trillin may be a national treasure for his journalism as well as for his two witty one-man shows, which prompted Mel Gussow to dub him ``the Buster Keaton of performance humorists.'' Must doggerel be crude, unpolished, a dog's verse? Though the opening pages of his yappings leave something to be desired, his skills increase with use, although Trillin's funniest moment isn't poetry; it's his complaint about losing Alexander Haig as a fit object of ridoggericule as he watches Haig, like Shane on his white horse, ride out of town, leaving behind little Brandon de Trillin shouting, ``Haig! Haig! Please don't go, Haig! We need you, Haig! Come back, Haig!'' Trillin's father, a Kansas City restaurateur, devised rhymes for his menus (``Let's go, warden, I'm ready to fry/My last request was Mrs. Trillin's pie''), lending young Trillin a rhymer's background. Aside from a bouquet of general doggerel (``New movies, which are mostly dumb, are in the summer/Even dumber''), his subjects, not always treated fairly, he admits, include George Bush, the Reagans, Ross Perot, Mrs. Thatcher, Gorbachev, Clarence Thomas, Clark Clifford, Arafat, Clinton, Gore, Kuwait, and Saddam (``This guy who often said he'd smash us flat in one battle/Turned out to be what Texans call all hat and no cattle''). Let's call it fiddle faddle/between wisdom and a baby's rattle.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-374-13552-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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