This elegant but overly cautious study of Mann concentrates on narrating how the Nobel Prizewinning German novelist, caught in the mid-20th century's maelstroms, stepped forward to become a spokesman for enlightened humanism. Prater (A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke, not reviewed, etc.) seeks neither to amass a psychological profile nor to recapture the subtleties of Mann's literary skill. Instead, he chronicles his subject's public career as a man of letters, analyzing how historical events altered Mann's trajectory—and how Mann, in turn, sought to shape history. To this end, Prater devotes the bulk of his pages to examining Mann's life after his emigration from Germany in the first years of Hitler's regime. That said, some passages about his earlier life turn brevity to advantage—for instance, in Prater's cogent explanation of the complicated scandal over Mann's story ``The Blood of the Walsungs,'' which featured an anti-Semitic caricature of his wife's family. Prater writes insightfully about issues that concerned the private Mann, such as his homoerotic fantasy life, here usefully placed in historical context. He is also good on Mann's engagement with his fiction, giving a particularly lucid account of the difficult composition of Doctor Faustus. Most importantly, he succeeds at his chief project: tracing how Mann managed his literary celebrity while evolving out of the German nationalist sentiments of his youth toward an internationalist socialism. A thoughtful epilogue recommends that we reassess the significance and accuracy of Mann's political thought in the wake of the historical revelations of 1989, but Prater declines to spice his narrative with such assessment. Prater's solid work on Mann's public life complements the more personal portrait offered in Ronald Hayman's biography (p. 132). True illumination, however, awaits someone who will take these two aspects together and add the missing ingredient: imaginative spark.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-815861-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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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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