The author’s intelligence and personable quality, combined with her large cast of political and show-business celebrities,...

COMMAND PERFORMANCE

AN ACTRESS IN THE THEATER OF POLITICS

A well-written account of Alexander’s 1993–97 term as head of the National Endowment of the Arts, smoothly interwoven with tales of her stage and screen life.

Until the NEA appointment, Alexander’s only bureaucratic experience was as a politically active citizen (although she was urged to run for public office after portraying Eleanor Roosevelt on a television program). Her commitment to the NEA was bolstered by her role in The Great White Hope, which earned her a Tony Award and an Oscar nomination and was developed with an NEA grant. The organizing principle of her 15 theatrical chapter titles, divided into two acts and bookended by a prologue and epilogue, smartly links Alexander’s professional world onstage with her stint in the theater of politics. “The Audition,” “The Rehearsal,” and “Curtain Up” detail the intricate voyage through nomination and confirmation. On the heels of the swearing-in comes the process of learning the ropes and expanding her list of useful acquaintances. The many profiles of movers and shakers, for and against the NEA, reveal a dry authorial wit and add human interest. No sooner did this Washington outsider learn to deal with Beltway insiders than she was confronted with the Gingrich Congress, which turned her plan to increase NEA funding and visibility into a battle of containment—if not extinction. The agency survived, but a personal tragedy and mounting disenchantment with the time-wasting politicization of the legislative process prompted Alexander to resign. She compares the frustrating ditherings of bureaucracy to the results-oriented production of a play (which benefits from a more collaborative atmosphere for settling differences).

The author’s intelligence and personable quality, combined with her large cast of political and show-business celebrities, make for an entertaining and informative discussion of important arts issues. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-891620-06-1

Page Count: 322

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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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