A HOUSE ON THE OCEAN, A HOUSE ON THE BAY

VOL. III, MEMOIRS

In this third installment of his memoirs, novelist Picano (Like People in History, 1995, etc.) revisits his life amid the fabulous gay crowd in Manhattan and Fire Island during the libertine '70s. Picano begins by describing his life in Manhattan before his first novel was published in 1975, when he was 31. As his success grew, he began gradually to spend more time on Fire Island in the summers and came to feel at home among the other artsy types who frequented the discos and beaches—and who cruised the island's al fresco gay ``meat market.'' Often Picano is incisive about his creative and romantic struggles, and he vividly captures the ebullient mood of gay New York in its pre-AIDS heyday. But scattered through the book are distastefully self- aggrandizing passages in which he asserts his personal and professional merits. For instance, he airily pontificates about the elements of his own childhood he put into one of his characters, ``the truly superior child who operates outside all norms, all conventions: for want of a better word, the genius. . . . I'd revealed a superior talent as a child.'' Picano notes the sales figures of his novels Smart as the Devil (1975) and Eyes (1976) and, as if he's desperate not to be thought a hack, explains how complex and rewarding these books are. Without redeeming irony, he goes on at length about how supremely attractive and desirable he and his two closest friends were considered by the Fire Island smart set. Perhaps most off-putting is Picano's evident conviction that the endless drugged-up days of sex and dancing and more sex during the late '70s added up to some kind of golden age of gay culture. Those who share this conviction are likely to be Picano's most receptive readers. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 22, 1997

ISBN: 0-571-19913-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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