A unique but hurried account of a difficult relationship.

RAGGED LOVE

Fedotowsky’s debut combines experimental passages and more straightforward memoir fodder in a tribute to her late husband.

The book’s opening line is almost Joycean in its mixture of stream-of-consciousness and Gaelic dialect: “Ah daddy ah beautiful critter ya cannae sleep.” Fedotowsky’s father, an engineer, was dying at age 55. Even as a bereaved teenager, she found humor at his funeral, thinking a line of family members resembled “a row of cartoon monkeys sitting in the bottom of an aquarium.” Such original language particularly enlivens the first two chapters, which edge close to poetry with short, stanzalike paragraphs and impressionistic rather than explanatory details. From the third chapter onward, the book becomes more of a standard memoir, as Fedotowsky chronicles the family’s move to New York and her abortive stint at Boston University. Even in the traditionally chronological sections, however, her variable approach includes direct address (“Are you surprised to learn, dear reader…”) and self-deprecation—equating her loss of virginity with the novelty of sampling instant mashed potatoes for the first time. Soon, Fedotowsky met “Andre the dreamboat,” a Latvian under family pressure to succeed in America. She left her hippie friends behind to join Andre in Quebec, where brutal winters cut them off from the social revolutions of the 1960s. Living in a “rural goddamn wilderness” also strained their relationship, especially when Andre took up drinking after a motorcycle accident. Still, the ties of “ragged love” kept Fedotowsky with Andre; they married in 1970 and moved to California. Andre’s uneven professional life and declining health—kidney failure exacerbated by dementia—make for a strangely hurried portion of the narrative. Andre’s death, at age 63, repeats the memoir’s beginning: “Ah beautiful critter ya cannae sleep.” The last few pages, though, are a particularly rushed roll call of dead family and friends. The Fedotowskys’ tumultuous marriage could surely fill a book twice this length. Although brevity magnifies her passion, the sense of haste is increased by the book’s editing: Punctuation is often lacking, and little attention has been paid to font or page layout.

A unique but hurried account of a difficult relationship.

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491053331

Page Count: 76

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

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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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