FAULKNER, MISSISSIPPI

An elegant, erudite, and at times baffling reconsideration of Faulkner by a giant of Caribbean literature. A Martinican who first encountered Faulkner in French translation, Glissant launches his reappraisal after touring the novelist’s house, Rowan Oak. His reaction to the poet laureate of the past-haunted South is filtered through his puzzled attempts to apprehend how the contemporary South is emblematic of the American whole—banal roadsides cluttered with fast-food restaurants, the cultural nonchalance toward violence—making this part travelogue, part cultural and literary criticism. Glissant’s general affability is demonstrated by his address of race in Faulkner: “How can you reduce Faulkner’s pantheistic Comedy to what he did or did not say about the race question in the United States? But how can you fail to take this question into consideration?” He argues for the importance of the exercise, contending that “Faulkner’s oeuvre will be complete when it is revisited and made ‘effective’ by African-Americans,” and he credits Toni Morrison with beginning the project. Glissant brings a unique perspective to Faulkner’s work: as a Martinican, he comes from a colonial culture built on a slave-based plantation economy like the South’s (and thus views slavery with a broader perspective than most Americans); as an outsider, he’s both an objective analyst and something of an awestruck tourist. Glissant is good at sketching the big picture of Faulkner’s lifework (how the novels fit together, what role the stories play) and small details (he charts the three modes of Faulkner’s writing, “the hidden, the described, and the inexpressible” and sheds light on how the author’s trademark style contributes to his themes). It’s the middle ground—the discussion of individual novels—that’s sometimes hard to follow. The difficulty of analyzing Faulkner’s entire body of work in a short book may be due more to the novels’ complexity (they don’t lend themselves to brief synopses) than to any shortcomings of Glissant’s. A sharp, challenging, and wholly unique tour of Yoknapatawpha County.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-15392-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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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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