A valuable resource for students of Hurston’s work, and a mine for future research.



Revealing selection of letters by the renowned folklorist, novelist, and essayist, capably edited by Kaplan (English/USC).

Hurston (1891–1960) was one of the most prominent African-American writers of the 1920s and ’30s, a confidante and peer of Langston Hughes, Ruth Benedict, Carl Van Vechten, Franz Boas, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and other important intellectuals of the time. Her star fell in the ’50s, and she died in obscurity in a Florida welfare home. Rediscovered in the 1980s, her work, especially the memoir Dust Tracks on the Road (1942) and the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1936), is now a fixture in college courses on African-American literature, women’s studies, and folklore. Her letters add depth to Hurston’s self-portraits elsewhere, revealing her to be a complex, sometimes unpleasant figure. Of particular interest to literary scholars are: Hurston’s relationship with wealthy patron Charlotte Osgood Mason, who apparently expected a kind of fawning devotion in return for her largesse (the writer addresses her throughout as “darling godmother”); her sometimes prickly interactions with the artists of the Harlem Renaissance; and the rightward drift of her political beliefs, which, Kaplan allows, “have often baffled her admirers.” General readers may find Hurston’s broad entrepreneurial streak more compelling: at points, for instance, she importunes Langston Hughes to invest in property near her Florida home (“I can, if I choose sell to any of my friends so long as they belong to my social caste. They want no niggers in that neighborhood . . . [but] were agreeably surprised in me”) and seeks funds from Mason to develop a catering business (“I’d like you for my first client, and if I please you then I’ll write personal letters to some of the finer hostesses and try to establish myself as New York’s Chicken Specialist”).

A valuable resource for students of Hurston’s work, and a mine for future research.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-49035-6

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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