ERNEST HEMINGWAY SELECTED LETTERS 1917-1961

Baker has edited this first-ever collection of Hemingway letters with the sensible idea that everyone knows the life too well to need much explanatory material—particularly who's who; and while you may have to figure out some identities, it was well that Baker resisted the temptation to make the letters stand as a sort of Hemingway autobiography. Read them instead as a novel—some great, full-of-it romance of ego. But as the truth of his life, no; Hemingway seems to have been honestly incapable of telling that. What's fascinating, indeed, is how early all the more detestable traits of the man rushed out. Boastfulness and plain garden-variety lying are already in evidence as early as 1918: a letter to a newspaperman friend, while Hemingway was in New York before leaving for Italy and the ambulance corps, confides that he's engaged to film star Mae Marsh. As Baker drily notes, Mae Marsh never met him. But it's the company of other writers that really sparks the nasty fun. From his brief exile in Toronto, Hemingway writes back to Paris and solicitously informs Gertrude Stein: "They are turning on you and Sherwood [Anderson] both; the young critical guys and their public. I can feel it in the papers etc. Oh well you will get them back again." There's a strong suggestion that Hemingway's Sherwood Anderson-parody, The Torrents of Spring, was in response to Edmund Wilson's remarking that H.'s "My Old Man" read like Anderson; certainly, for the rest of his life, Hemingway's viciousness peaked when he had a secondary or tertiary scapegoat. The only one he was directly beastly to, of course, was "poor" Scott Fitzgerald—to whom H. wrote: you don't know how to think; Tender Is the Night is done all wrong (once Fitzgerald was safely dead, Hemingway would say that it was his best); women destroyed you; you're minor-league and can't finish anything. Before 1938, he could look back and analyze himself—see his famous letter to Stein, in which he says that "Big Two-Hearted River" is an attempt "to do the country like CÉzanne"; but after '38 or so, all of that was gone, blown away by fame so that only the personal gracelessness was left—plus the constant fear. The letters to Max Perkins and Charles Scribner, Jr., with reports of daily word counts, fornication tallys. The letters boasting of how he taught his youngest son an anti-Semitic joke, how he flattened Wallace Stevens in a Key West bar. A remarkably smarmy correspondence with Arthur Mizener on Fitzgerald and other assorted unarmed dead. A scatalogical vendetta against James Jones (whose From Here to Eternity apparently ventured a little too close). Only three sets of Papa letters come off as half-pleasant: to his various wives-to-be and those past; to Bernard Berenson (a late exchange, utterly quirky); and a true—if passive—concern for Ezra Pound in a mental hospital after the war. All the rest is irredeemably grotesque. Fascinating, of course, but strictly as a sort of story—one that dramatizes the tension between the fictional, heroic Hemingway and his mean-spirited creator.

Pub Date: April 6, 1981

ISBN: 0743246896

Page Count: 983

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1981

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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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