In this unrelenting biography, former Soviet Colonel General Volkogonov mines archives still closed to historians, interviews eyewitnesses—and presents perhaps the most intimate look to date at Stalin's monstrousness and his nation's complicity. Volkogonov, whose father was murdered in a purge that placed the family under a political cloud, nonetheless rose through Army ranks to become deputy chief of military political indoctrination. He was thus uniquely placed to examine secret Communist Party, NKVD, military, and other archives (and even studied the marginalia of Stalin's private library). Stalin, a masterful actor with an extraordinary memory (especially for grudges), went to great lengths to conceal his role as mass murderer and to establish himself as universal expert and demigod in the public mind: ``the total embodiment of absolute good...[who] repudiates evil, ignorance, treachery, cruelty. He is that smiling man with the moustache who is carrying the little girl waving the flag.'' Going behind this mountain range of deceit, Volkogonov exposes Stalin, who was expelled from seminary, as a man who had an unremarkable Party record under Lenin; who, when he gained total power (through consistent application of coercion and terror), was nonetheless a weak theoretician and an inept military commander; and who systematically executed every official who knew him when he was obscure and could thus threaten his mythology. The author also explores how and why Russia was willing to submit with zest to this regime and to an absolute dictator whose triumph was the nation's tragedy. A riveting account that adds great depth to the widely known outline of Stalin's crimes. (Twenty-four pages of photographs—not seen).

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-8021-1165-3

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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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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