Much food for thought here, all best taken with a grain (or two) of salt. Only Corso could willfully utter, “The poet and...

AN ACCIDENTAL BIOGRAPHY

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF GREGORY CORSO

A zinging, furious output of epistles from the young Corso—most date from 1958 to 1965—to his friends and publishers, assembled by Morgan, archivist of Allen Ginsberg's papers.

The letters start just after publication of Corso's The Vestal Lady on Brattle and continue with abandon until dope and alcohol finally got the better of him in the mid-’60s. They reveal a Corso vital to the point of rioting, spiritedly all over the place, intoning to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “I somehow do believe that only great poetry can be written on the spot, and when finished done,” after having noted to Ginsberg that “spontaneity in poetry is nothing more than notes, not poems.” They display a remarkable degree of self-infatuation—“Read Howl and liked it because it's almost like my Way Out,” he writes to Ginsberg—equal to his willingness to indulge in self-pity: “Things are very difficult for me,” he writes to Ferlinghetti, “life is becoming too real. When I see it that real, I feel not a poet.” Or, to Ginsberg, the pathetic, “you well know how I used to wow ’em, Allen.” That he became the sensual lyric poet at all is a wonder upon reading long letters to Kerouac and Isabella Gardner, in which he relates his less-than-ideal youth: the orphanages, reform schools, psychiatric wards, prison—and forget about formal education—all before he hit 20. His past gave him a sense of protective fellow-feeling, which flowed into the poetry, and a generous measure of mistrust, fear, and hunger for approval—a need for love without the pro quid quo—that formed his life. The letters from the ’70s and ’80s, but a trickle, promise new work, but fail to deliver.

Much food for thought here, all best taken with a grain (or two) of salt. Only Corso could willfully utter, “The poet and his poems are a whole,” knowing well that one could be sensitive, the other cruel, one responsible, the other destructive.

Pub Date: April 28, 2003

ISBN: 0-8112-1535-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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