Fortunately, no grades are given out in these classes, just a “genuine intellectual experience” to learn from a first-rate...



A literature professor invites us to sit in on some classes.

The co-founder of Stanford’s Literary Lab and Center for the Study of the Novel, Moretti (Emeritus, Humanities/Stanford Univ.; Distant Reading, 2013, etc.) collects an “odd quintet” of his university lectures on fiction, film, drama, and art and adds another, “Teaching in America,” in which he bemoans the university acting like a store seeking “financial dreams,” thus betraying “its intellectual purpose.” The author clearly wants us to enjoy the “magic” of literature and then “filter it through the skepticism of critique” to acquire an “aesthetic education.” He extracts short passages from the works discussed to analyze how language and style create form. In one of the best lectures, Moretti looks at how Hemingway’s style in “Big Two-Hearted River”—short sentences, a “spectacular” use of prepositional phrases, repetition—acts as a response to the never-mentioned World War I to create a “sort of retrospective exorcism of an unspeakable trauma.” In “Walt Whitman or Charles Baudelaire?” Moretti picks the American when it comes down to the battle “between two incompatible conceptions of modern poetry.” Indeed, Whitman provides “the fundamental model for a democratic aesthetics.” In the engaging and insightful “Day and Night,” Moretti examines the historical and antithetical significance between Westerns and film noir. “Words don’t matter in the Western,” he writes, whereas film noir is “unimaginable without words.” After World War II, these two genres, writes the author, were critical to establishing American cultural hegemony. Next up, “Causality in Death of a Salesman”: “American myths, everywhere: and they all turn to ashes.” Lastly, and most ambitiously, there’s a somewhat hopscotching piece on Vermeer and Hopper/Rembrandt and Warhol. Throughout, Moretti draws on a wide range of authors to assist him in his skeptical critiques.

Fortunately, no grades are given out in these classes, just a “genuine intellectual experience” to learn from a first-rate literary critic.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-27270-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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