TOO SOON TO TELL

The prolific New Yorker journalist and gourmand collects the best from the last four years of his syndicated column—a healthy dose of common sense and amiable cynicism. A Kansas City native, Trillin (Deadline Poet, 1994, etc.) smartly balances midwestern aw-shucks shtick with his cracker- barrel wise-guy persona. After warning readers not to take him too seriously, Trillin saves his harshest words for overpaid CEOs, real estate sharks, Eurotrash, the book publishing biz, the NRA, and Ronald Reagan, whose memoirs mark a triumph of history as spin control. A congenial curmudgeon, Trillin enjoys being too old to appreciate aspects of youth culture. His loyalty to the defunct minor league team from his hometown (the Kansas City Blues) is just one of his quirky pleasures, along with ``Gunga Din'' and imitating a dog's bark. Trillin delights in America at its wackiest, from the tic-tac-toe-playing chicken in NYC's Chinatown to medieval jousting restaurants in central Florida. He's always good for lots of domestic laughs as well, especially the mixed joys of living in a female-dominated household presided over by the ever-sensible Alice. He even has a soft spot for hapless George Bush, a man out of step with the times. No slouch when it comes to the failures of Bill Clinton, Trillin continues to be ``blindsided by the truth'' (i.e., reality is stranger than invention). In a crunch, the peripatetic columnist relies on weird news items from around the world, such as China's claim to have invented golf, or the story of a young man in Thailand who refused to leave his room for 22 years because his parents wouldn't buy him a motorcycle. Like any journalist worth his salt, Trillin thrills to the vagaries of language itself, especially slang and euphemism. The perfect antidote to the smirky, mean-spirited humor so popular these days. (author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-27846-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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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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