SHOWMAN

THE LIFE OF DAVID O. SELZNICK

Brilliant, immense life of the producer of Gone With the Wind, smartly done by film-historian/novelist Thomson (Silver Light, 1990, etc.). Thomson has done stunning research for this labor, and interviewed everyone of importance regarding David O. Selznick (1902-65), aside from Jennifer Jones, Selznick's second and last wife, who clammed up. Jones could have added much but, going by her portrait here, it's understandable that she's still the publicity- shy, shivering creature she was when Selznick first met her—and there's the weight of having parted him from first wife, Irene Mayer Selznick (who told her side in 1981's A Private View). The arc of Selznick's life—from teenage go-getter following his father and older brother into the movie biz to huge success in his middle 30s and then to a long, unstoppable decline—gives a great boost to the opening half of this bio, though the fizzle of Selznick's later career drains the book's energy later on simply because Selznick became a dully compulsive memo-writer, talker, gambler, and egomaniac, out of touch with the times and rambling from one deep pit of debt to another. Selznick spent much of his time addicted to Benzedrine, drank enough and lost enough money gambling to stay embattled with both wives—sometimes bruising Jennifer—and made great use of his producer's couch with actresses, starlets, secretaries, and even messenger girls: not a likable guy, except to well-heeled friends like Jock Whitney and Bill Paley. Selznick also publicized himself as Hollywood's greatest translator of great books to film, although he seldom read anything but synopses and scripts. Thomson sees him not just warts and all but as a puppet to the women in his life, whose neurotic needs kept him chained up like a dancing bear. Pretty much a spellbinder, with a pathetic third act, despite Thomson's keen analyses of Selznick's glossy films and long fade- out. (Photographs—108—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 1992

ISBN: 0-394-56833-8

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1992

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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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