Uneven account of a 14-month-long exploration of the Gulf Coast as it arcs from the tourist traps of Key West to the temples of the Yucatan Peninsula. Along the way, Turner (Of Chiles, Cacti, and Fighting Cocks, 1990, etc.) encounters embittered commercial fishermen railing against conservationists, backslapping Mardi Gras float builders, Cajun activists, and investigators of the grisly Matamoros cult murders. But the author too often fails to breathe life into these potentially engrossing characters, either by overloading his portraits with finicky details or by leaving their outlines sketchy and undeveloped. Turner's account of the environmental depredations to be found along the rivers, streams, and bayous of Louisiana encapsulates his tendency toward literary overkill. Seemingly unwilling to allow his firsthand experiences to speak for themselves, he piles on statistics until his narrative reads like a governmental report. Meanwhile, his recapitulation of the facts concerning the 1989 ritual torture/murder of Mark Kilroy by drug- running cultists in Matamoros, Mexico, would have been more effective with deeper probing into the African/Caribbean/Christian roots of the crime's underlying ``magical'' motivations. Turner is at his best when he abandons so-called relevance and merely recounts the facts surrounding the lives of such ``endangered species'' as eccentric Mississippi potter George Ohr and prickly Cajun cultural revivalist Barry Ancelet. In these vignettes, the unique character of the Gulf Coast mentality is captured through vivid anecdotes. Yet another weakness here stems from Turner's reluctance to reveal his own idiosyncracies. He remains something of a cipher, recording but not reacting to the world through which he passes.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 1993

ISBN: 0-8050-2072-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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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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