THE LAST WORD

LETTERS BETWEEN MARCIA NARDI AND WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

Marcia Nardi (1901-90) was the anonymous female Williams quoted in Paterson (1946), using her letters to represent either the deprived misunderstood poet or the isolated unconventional woman. Here, she is resurrected with all her unpleasant attributes, failures, complaints, and self-defeating gestures in full editorial dress. In 1957, after she won a Guggenheim, Williams told Nardi that she was ``gifted and generous,'' but in fact, for most of their acquaintance, he was assaulted with endless letters full of petty grievances, demands, anger, and resentment to the point that this courtly, magnanimous physician-poet reminded her that ``others have difficulties as well'' and asked her to stop writing to him. Born Lillian Massell in Boston, she dropped out of Wellesley and into Greenwich Village, changed her name, and had an illegitimate son. It was her complex of problems as a single mother—financial, emotional, even sexual (as she explains)—that led her to consult Williams, as a physician, who in turn advised her on treatment, lent her money, helped her with her poetry, and arranged to have her published in New Directions. Other poems followed, as did other troubles that she blamed on poverty, being a woman, and being isolated from literary companionship. But Nardi was so abrasive, needy, and demanding that when she did meet literary figures at Yaddo or Macdowell, writers such as Thornton Wilder or Randall Jarrell, she alienated them with her complaining and her resentful sense of entitlement. She published her last poem in 1971 in The New Yorker and died friendless, except for the present editor, in a nursing home in 1990. In all, Nardi's letters are less revealing of the woman or poet than of the dysfunctional personality who brought out the best in some very talented people, including O'Neil.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 1994

ISBN: 0-87745-445-0

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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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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