For Palahniuk, the more acute the angle the better, but his is another solid entry in the Crown Journey series, with its...



Novelist Palahniuk (Lullaby, 2002, etc.) squires readers through Portland at its outlandish best.

The author moved to the city fresh out of high school, like others who went west and fetched up in the cheapest city they could find. “This gives us the most cracked of the crackpots,” says Palahniuk, citing a theory suggested by a friend, “the misfits among misfits.” In a city of the strange and fugitive, it stands to reason that there’d be many odd entertainments, and Palahniuk reports upon a mighty selection. In cool stride, he marvels at the oral storytelling talents of those before the eviction court, gazes at the world’s largest hairball (2½ pounds of solid calcium and hair), stands in awe before the holdings of the vacuum-cleaner museum, encounters the “spirit orbs” (“glowing balls of light that hover and veer”) of 58 messengers from the beyond, and recommends places to get lucky on the sex front, including the Dirty Duck Pub (“for you fans of big men with hairy backs”). Not all is peculiar: Palahniuk reminds us that Portland is a city of gardens, has a crack toy museum, and claims shops where you can get used clothes, used magazines, and chunks of recycled architectural details. But he’s far happier taking a ghoulish tour of the city’s fabled tunnel system: “Down tunnel after tunnel the rope pulls you past scenes of incest and torture. . . . [In] the pitch dark, a crowd of strangers rush the tour group, groping their breasts and genitals. . . . Did I mention the big legal waiver everybody signed?” Tucked into the proceedings are “postcards” from Palahniuk’s own experiences with the city: getting beaten as the victim of a wilding, for instance, or attending the Apocalypse Café, where “the idea is, we’re going to the first potluck after a nuclear holocaust.”

For Palahniuk, the more acute the angle the better, but his is another solid entry in the Crown Journey series, with its premium on deep-dish subjectivity.

Pub Date: July 8, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-4783-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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