A tidy synthesis, but not so insightful that it can succeed without the horse’s mouth. (30 b&w photos)

BILLY JOEL

THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN ANGRY YOUNG MAN

Though top-heavy on the business side, this look at pop idol Billy Joel pulls together many aspects of his life, even if they fail to cohere fully.

With Joel, people come down on one side or the other: he’s a schlock crooner, banal, surrounded by musical hacks, all smoke and mirrors; he’s a piano prodigy, full of bittersweet melodies and wry surprises, who can command a waltz as easily as a torch song, do pop, jazz or swing. Indisputably, he has gotten himself a fair amount of publicity, mostly bad. So he looks like just the stuff for a revealing biography, but the problem is that he won’t cooperate with such a venture. Thus, long-time music journalist Bordowitz (Bad Moon Rising, 1998) is forced to cull his (rather guarded) material from magazines, books and interviews with some of Joel’s associates; his close friends won’t talk about him to strangers. There’s none of the immediacy of hearing from Joel himself, getting the benefit of his hindsight or hearing his take on what it’s like to have “A Matter of Trust” work its way from thin air to the recording studio. Though all the sensational stuff is there—booze, drugs and sex—readers will get some conflicting information on the last one. We read that “Billy. . . seemed to be enjoying the sex and drugs and rock and roll, and increasingly the sex was not with Elizabeth,” she being his first wife. Then, after their divorce, we hear about Joel’s “long-stunted rock and roll libido.” Joel’s business and legal wrangles are largely public record, and that’s where Bordowitz spends considerable time. He also provides a linear history of the artist’s songwriting and performances—and comments he made about both—but, again, the goods are all secondhand. There’s a palpable veil between Bordowitz’s writing and the acts themselves.

A tidy synthesis, but not so insightful that it can succeed without the horse’s mouth. (30 b&w photos)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8230-8250-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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