A splendid, balanced representation of an author in her many roles, and of the way she changed her world.

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HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

A LIFE

In this definitive biography, Hedrick (History/Trinity; Solitary Comrade, 1982) applies a feminine perspective to the fascinating life and tumultuous times of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-96), author of what's arguably the most influential novel in history and someone who only 50 years ago was described as "A Crusader in Crinoline'' (by Robert F. Wilson in the last full-length Stowe bio, published in 1941).

Stowe's life included the common difficulties of 19th-century women—dependency, mismanaged health, exclusion from public life—difficulties shared with the poor and with blacks, creating a natural identity of interests that, Hedrick explains, overcame barriers of race, class, and gender. The author also sees in Stowe the unfolding of literature in 19th-century America, from the instructive and entertaining "parlour literature,'' written by women for domestic reading aloud, to literature's professionalization after 1860 in journals and universities—a transformation dominated by men. But in 1850-51, when Stowe serialized Uncle Tom's Cabin (no publisher would accept it as a book), women were still creating the new American culture—and this novel captured it, inspiring, by 1893, translations into 42 languages, as well as numerous songs, plays, toys, games, and even wallpaper patterns. Despite her success, though, tragedy plagued Stowe: Her baby son died, an adult son drowned, and two other children became addicts, afflictions for which her Calvanist religion offered no comfort. In The Minister's Wooing, Stowe continued her attack on the abstract world of male clergy and legislators that she'd begun in Uncle Tom's Cabin, affirming the comfort she derived from poor black women rather than from theology. Writing mostly for the male-dominated Atlantic, she was supporting her entire family by the end of her career—an end created, she believed, by a mental exhaustion known only to women.

A splendid, balanced representation of an author in her many roles, and of the way she changed her world.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-506639-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1993

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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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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