A series of lively postcards from a peerless journey. “Definitely long, definitely strange—and definitely a trip,” said band...



Like a Grateful Dead concert, McNally’s authorized biography of the great band is amiable, digressive, and transporting, capable of minor misadventures but always worth witnessing.

McNally was anointed official Dead historian in 1980, by Jerry Garcia, who admired the accuracy and sensitivity of McNally’s book on Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady (Desolate Angel, 1979). He hasn’t let the band down. Working in linear fashion—punctuated by chapters that convey a you-are-there atmosphere: equipment setups, interview snippets, stage snafus, and moments of glory—McNally keeps the writing liquid, mellow despite all the detail it sheds, exhaustive without being exhausting. McNally’s job couldn’t have been easy, considering the general chaos and disorganization that surrounded the band, not to mention the unbridled use of recreational intoxicants. (It is a measure of the anecdotal pleasures here to learn that the Dead were introduced to LSD by the CIA.) But he does a yeoman’s job of tracking both their footsteps and their mindsets, setting them within (or outside) the context of the country’s evolving politics and culture, conjuring a sense of their genuine eccentricities, the irritants that generated their pearls: the lightning in a bottle of “Live Dead,” the endlessly unfolding “Dark Star,” and “St. Stephen,” with its “medieval vision set inside a psychedelic ambience.” The Dead made music that defined their lives and then shared it with friends; the stage was their living room. They were cooperative, leaderless, real-time, Dionysian, ready to follow their emotional and artistic vicissitudes. So they did, as McNally chronicles, alone and together, brilliant and abysmal; some survived, others did not. But what a time: be-ins, Woodstock (yes, they were there), Fillmore East and West and every stage in between, turned on and tuned in—and the music, it was always about the music, though “we never failed to have some fun,” Garcia pointed out.

A series of lively postcards from a peerless journey. “Definitely long, definitely strange—and definitely a trip,” said band member Phil Lesh. Wish you were here.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2002

ISBN: 0-7679-1185-7

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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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