A loving tribute to an innovative artist.

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BEAUTIFUL BODIES

THE ADVENTURES OF MALVINA HOFFMAN

A debut biography focuses on a path-breaking sculptor.

This account chronicles the vibrant escapades of the American artist Malvina Hoffman. At 25 years old, the sculptor, “pretty, slim, and eager,” arrived in Paris to sit at the feet of Rodin. The year was 1910, and Rodin was busy seducing acolytes, breaking their hearts, and creating some of his greatest works. In tribute to Hoffman’s background and connections—along with her talent—Rodin instructed her and allowed her free use of his studio. As she perfected her own art, creating fine likeness of Anna Pavlova, whom she befriended, and the ballet dancers around her, Hoffman mingled with the great (Gertrude Stein, Constantin Brancusi) and the rich (royalty, diplomats, CEOs around the world). She also developed her signature realistic—and flattering—style: “Unlike Rodin, she created what her clients expected.” Commissions arrived, connections proliferated. Hoffman visited a surgical college to study dissection, traveled through the Balkans in the years after World War I, and dined with powerful men like Stanley Field. In 1930, her trademark project was commissioned by Field for the Chicago museum that bears his name. She created a “Hall of Mankind”: scores of sculptures depicting different “racial types to be modeled while traveling round the world.” Though Field was originally interested in hiring five artists to split the task, Hoffman convinced him to commission her alone, with only her husband, Sam, as assistant. The great adventure of her life thus began, and the gallery of “racial types”—long controversial, despised, and perhaps misunderstood—came into being. Exploring the life of a woman she so admires, Didi Hoffman clearly felt the pull of hagiography (Malvina was her husband’s great aunt). The author did not resist. The artist is repeatedly described as brave, courageous, creative, a woman “who always came from a place of love.” Sourcing may have something to do with this breathlessness. Two books by the sculptor account for over 80 percent of the references in this biography, which features black-and-white photographs of her art. Still, Didi Hoffman undoubtedly adds something unique to the picture, convincingly liberating the artist’s own, ecumenical feelings on biology—that all of humanity springs from the same root, that people are all brothers and sisters—from the racist ways in which her work has been used. This is valuable. 

A loving tribute to an innovative artist.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63338-720-1

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Fulton Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

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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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