AFRICAN LAUGHTER

FOUR VISITS TO ZIMBABWE

Leasing, once a "Prohibited Immigrant" barred from her childhood homeland of Rhodesia by its white minority government, returns to what is now Zimbabwe—and in inimitably forthright style records her impressions. The author last visited her homeland in the late 50's, when the country was a British colony, not as rigidly segregated as South Africa but nonetheless dominated by a white ruling class that enjoyed a way of life impossible elsewhere. When she returned in 1982, Zimbabwe was just two years old, and blacks and whites were still bitterly divided as well as devastated by the ten-year bush war that had pitted blacks against whites as well as blacks against blacks. The countryside seemed equally devastated ("...the game mostly gone. The bush was silent"), and squatters were overfarming already fragile lands. Most whites whom Lessing met, including her brother, delivered what she called "The Monologue," as much a racist critique as a display of the after-effects of a tremendous shock. On her three subsequent visits, the last made earlier this year, race relations proved healthier, but Prime Minister Mugabe's government seemed increasingly autocratic and corrupt; the economy was poorly organized along socialist lines; a terrible drought had ravaged the region; and unemployment continued to rise, especially among the young. On these visits, Lessing talked to a range of contacts, black and white; stayed on farms where white owners were trying out new crops to boost the local economy; accompanied the multiracial Book Team, which helps rural women create "how-to" textbooks; and traveled fearfully to her childhood home, where the beloved bush had disappeared and "everything spoke of failure." Always the fair-minded realist, Leasing isn't overly optimistic about the future, but her sympathetic account of Zimbabwe's struggle to forge a common destiny is most worthwhile.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1992

ISBN: 0060924330

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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