GIVING OFFENSES

ESSAYS ON CENSORSHIP

These closely argued essays on censorship's insidious subtleties make for dense but rewarding reading. As a noted South African writer under apartheid, Coetzee (The Master of Petersburg, 1994, etc.) long suffered the stifling shadow of the censor. Indeed, almost half of the essays in this collection concern South Africa's particular brand of censorship and how it was leveled at fellow writers such as Andre Brink and Breyten Breytenbach. Broadening his examination, Coetzee also looks at Solzhenitsyn's struggles with the Soviet state, undercuts Catherine MacKinnon's dogmatic anti-pornography stance, deconstructs D.H. Lawrence's belief in breaking taboos, and closely reads the works of several writers operating under censorship conditions. Those looking for simple, ringing denunciations of censorship's evils will be disappointed. Coetzee explicitly rejects such noble tritenesses. Instead, drawing on the works of modern theorists such as Lacan, Foucault, and Girard, he pursues censorship's deeper, more fickle meanings and unmeanings. In his essay on the South African Publications Appeal Board, for example, he reveals the unreasoning paranoia that governs even the most "enlightened" censorship. In other words, censorship can never be a wholly rational act. Almost every page is thick with such provocative insights and ideas, but Coetzee does not always do his arguments justice. Unlike his lucid, elegant fictions, here he is often unnecessarily opaque and obscure. He has the South African intellectual's fatal fondness for academic jargon (though not the usual accompanying cant), and his logic occasionally short-circuits. But his erudition and intelligence remain truly formidable throughout. And as Coetzee's own experience has shown, censorship ultimately fights a losing battle: "The artist, if he is patient enough and persistent enough, always wins, or at least emerges on the winning side."

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-226-11174-1

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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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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