Thirty polished but thorny essays, most of which have appeared in Harper's, the New York Times Book Review, and the New Yorker. Generally less accessible than her novels (The Messiah of Stockholm, 1987; etc.) because of their presumption of familiarity with Jewish traditions, these pieces deal mostly with writers (Primo Levi, William Gaddis, Theodore Dreiser) and writing. Ozick's style in a majority of the pieces, moreover, can only be described as Talmudic, echoing with a determination to explain, convince, and instruct. However, in a brief "Forewarning," the author does issue a caveat that her ruminations are not to be viewed as expressing "a Weltanshauung"; they are, she insists, merely "an illumination." Among the more accessible essays is "A Short Note on 'Chekhovian,'" in which Ozick discusses the "inwardness" as well as the "solidity and precision" of the Russian master. Equally revelatory are her thoughts on "Henry James' Unborn Child," in which she sensitively explores the possible psychological sources of an evocative short story that James was unable—or unwilling—to complete. Ozick also considers such wide-ranging matters as the problems of translation and, in the title essay, metaphor as history. Here, Ozick's frame of reference leads her to controversial conclusions, as when she insists that translating from Yiddish to English is uniquely difficult because of the disparity between Jewish and Christian concepts (surely translating Japanese haiku must be at least as difficult). Stimulating forays into an original mind; but many, with just cause, will find these essays a frustrating exercise in hermeticism.

Pub Date: April 13, 1989

ISBN: 0679734252

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?