THE ART OF SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS

Close readings that train a brilliant spotlight on Shakespeare's poetic performance, without however quite doing justice to the full dimensions of his achievement. A celebrated and prolific critic, reviewer, and lecturer on poetry, Vendler (The Given and the Made, 1995) offers an illuminating companion for Bardolators of all levels and stripes. Adamant that hers is a work of ``commentary,'' Vendler analyzes each sonnet in turn (they appear in both original and modernized formats), explicating in an accessible manner the structures that organize them, without dwelling on the significance of her interpretations. While Vendler attends dutifully to imagery, and occasionally (too seldom, in fact) to rhythm and meter, she makes Shakespeare's language her central object. She illuminates the sources—practical, philosphical, Anglo-Saxon, and classical—for his multifaceted vocabulary; underlines his love for anagrams, puns, and echoing effects; and highlights the subtle ways in which the sonnets draw on his dramatist's knack for dialogue. Her overall purpose is to showcase the dynamic force of the sonnets as ``speech acts,'' as interventions in ongoing discussions. This approach works best where Vendler can invoke an intimate interlocutor for Shakespeare typically the Young Man or the Dark Lady, considered by critical tradition to be the sonnets' addressees. For example, her discussion of the famous sonnet 116 (which begins ``Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments'') convincingly contends that Shakespeare there responds to the Young Man whom he so admired. But Vendler seldom considers how the poet might have been seeking to project his voice into broader discussions. Nor, unfortunately, given her gifts, does she even so much as gesture toward relating her readings to the discussion of Shakespeare-in-history that has lately absorbed not only academic commentators, but also such mainstream writers as Garry Wills. Nevertheless, an immensely enriching account of Shakespeare's complex verse: readings whose perspicuity and accuracy will form a solid basis for many more.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-63711-9

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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