A well-tempered song of praise.



New York Times editor Whitney (Spy Trader, 1993) crafts a joyful and well-versed celebration of the pipe organ in American musical history over the past century.

For sheer musical power and sonority, pipe organs are hard to beat. The author, who has been playing them for 40 years, here chronicles the struggle for the soul of the organ that took place in the US during the 20th century. He starts with Ernest Skinner, an organ builder who developed the eclectic electropneumatic instrument with its smooth orchestral sound, and continues through the renaissance of the classic baroque tracker-action organ. Whitney has a fine old time describing the architecture of the instruments from windchest to whistle, as well as their special qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. Occasional ventures “up to the chirping stops of the one-foot sifflote on the positive,” or “the enclosed swell division with a romantic voix celeste” give us a peek into the musicality of the nomenclature, without being so frequent as to become annoying. The author introduces other makers, including G. Donald Harrison, who brightened Skinner's instruments and then spearheaded the classic revival, and Charles Fisk, who revived the eclectic organ. Whitney also profiles the enormously popular organists Virgil Fox and E. Power Biggs, ably reflecting the character of each: strict, cool, clipped Biggs, who along with Harrison championed the return of an organ that Bach and Handel would have recognized as their own; and colorful, dashing, brilliant Fox, who loved the orchestral organ for its ability to show off his romantic, 19th-century playing style. But the star here is the pipe organ itself, pneumatic or tracker, with its great peals of sound that in the hands of someone like Bach render the instrument “awe-inspiring in its majesty and solemnity, proclaiming the power and the order of the universe.”

A well-tempered song of praise.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-59648-173-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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