THE LOVE AFFAIR AS A WORK OF ART

Stylish, insightful narratives of exemplary love affairs- -liaisons conducted in French, during the Romantic period and the Belle Epoque, when intellectual talk and passionate correspondence lent formal brilliance to the work of love. The luxurious prose that New Yorker contributor Hofstadter (Goldberg's Angel, 1994, etc.) crafts here provides the perfect medium for transmitting the extravagant stylings of his subjects, French literati active during the years 17961834 and 18871915. Presenting evidence drawn from their public and, moreover, their private writings, Hofstadter shows how their romantic effusions shaped their lives to aesthetic ends. His story begins with the sentimental novelist Madame de Charriäre, who fairly late in her life established a deep yet apparently platonic relationship with the youthful Benjamin Constant. Constant left her for the celebrated author Madame de Staâl. Later, after emerging from de Staâl's influence, he would write an extraordinarily misogynist novel, Adolphe—based, ironically enough, on his mentor Madame de Charriäre's Caliste. Madame de Staâl's protegÇes also included Juliette RÇcamier, who fell for the Vicomte Chateaubriand, whose Memories from Beyond the Tomb Hofstadter presents as a brilliant achievement of memory and of lying. Hofstadter moves on to develop a second, similar picture of literary romance. This time the work of Marcel Proust, who modeled many of his characters on his contemporaries, provides the focus. Key actors include the novelist Anatole France; his lover, the salonniäre LÇontine de Caillavet; and her son, Gaston, who competed with Proust himself for the affections of Jeanne Pouquet. Like Chateaubriand, Proust inevitably brings the topic around to memory and its vicissitudes. Hofstadter, for his part, hesitates to draw any resolutions from them for our time. He stresses instead the gulf that lies between these worlds of letters and our own society. Hofstader's recreation of French romanticisms exemplifies the art of collective biography. But without larger conclusions, his tale, however artfully crafted, remains a mere melodrama of literary life.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-19231-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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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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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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