An astute, if idiosyncratically personal, archive of essays.

LOOKING TO THE STARS FROM OLD ALGIERS

AND OTHER LONG STORIES SHORT

A collection of newspaper columns reflects on the joys of family and travel.

Risher (Long Story Short, 2011) has written a newspaper column for the Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, Louisiana, for more than 16 years. Here she assembles her own favorites—the ones that “were the strongest—or ones that held a sentimental place in my heart”—of those published between 2002 and 2017. The essays are generally very brief and cover a wide range of topics, including her childhood in Mississippi, her adoption of a daughter from China, her work as an English teacher and journalist, and her happy marriage. Family and travel form the twin pillars of these intimately personal columns, a profound sense of belonging thoughtfully juxtaposed with the equally powerful allure of wanderlust: “Traveling revives me in a way that nothing else does. I can’t do justice in describing the richness it has brought to my life, the friends I’ve made in new places or the relationships strengthened by the shared experience travel offers.” The author roams the world insatiably—West Africa, Honduras, and post-Katrina New Orleans are among the highlights—and chronicles her adventures with sensitively rendered insights and humor. She also intelligently discusses the nature of storytelling itself—she comes from a long line of raconteurs and seems to see herself, at least professionally, as an English teacher first and foremost. Risher’s prose is confidential and familiar in tone—she writes exclusively in the first person, and each installment reads like a journal entry, the totality of which amounts to an impressionistic memoir. At her best, the author is a breezily informal campfire storyteller; her tales are not quite literary but certainly companionably readable. But her essays can be a bit didactic, too eager to deliver a pithy moral lesson. In addition, their principal virtue doubles as their chief vice—the essays are impressively candid but so personal it’s not immediately obvious why they would resonate with unfamiliar readers. This is a well-written diary, and despite the fact that all the essays are previously published, they don’t always seem as if they were composed to be read by others.

An astute, if idiosyncratically personal, archive of essays.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946160-33-1

Page Count: 324

Publisher: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2018

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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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