Good fun—and an inspiration for readers to return to Shakespeare on their own.




An enjoyable memoir of late-life crisis, spiritual awakening, close reading, and all sorts of matters Shakespearean.

This is, at heart, a fan’s notes on rereading the works of William Shakespeare, an unpretentious rejoinder to David Denby’s Great Books (1996) and the collected essays of Sven Birkerts. Before getting to the Bard, though, Gollob gives us an extended background tour of the book-publishing business in its glory days, with a little well-deserved horn-tooting; after all, he edited Wright Morris, Donald Barthelme, and James Clavell and worked in some of the best literary houses in the land. Leaving publishing in 1995 just in advance of burnout (“why was I being asked to consider yet another lame and halt manuscript that would have been better served had it been placed into the hands of a faith healer?”), Gollob chanced to see a performance of Hamlet featuring the British actor Ralph Fiennes, enough to send him on a mind-altering romp through the collected works of Shakespeare, bringing all his life experiences to bear on plays and poems that he thought he knew, but of which, as he puts it, he really had only “a smattering of ignorance.” The result is a true pleasure: bookish without being academic, smart without being smart-alecky, always with an eye on the original work and not on its interpreter’s cleverness. Gollob’s tone is that of an ardent convert addressing an audience of graybeards (the narrative has its origins in an Elderhostel course Gollob teaches at Caldwell College in New Jersey), a friendly companion urging the reader to share his passion for the Bard, with just a couple of crabby moments. (He hates the film Shakespeare in Love, for one, and isn’t afraid to say so.) Throughout, the author offers some refreshing takes on a writer who has been much studied but perhaps little understood; his reading of King Lear as a Jewish text is a knockout, and entirely convincing.

Good fun—and an inspiration for readers to return to Shakespeare on their own.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-49817-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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