A LAND OF TWO HALVES

AN ACCIDENTAL TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND

A transplanted, middle-aged Englishman hitchhikes the length and breadth of his adopted country.

Bennett wanted serendipity to guide his ramble about the two big islands that make up New Zealand, thus his decision to become a pilgrim of the thumb. “I’ve seen much of this country over the years, but I have never traveled merely to observe it,” he writes, so on this trip he worked hard at the exigent art of seeing: everything from muttering magpies, glow-worm caves and bad hotels to high-country sheep stations, trout streams and a sky the color of a thrush egg. With an unselfconscious, wry tone, that carries the clarity of the plainspoken, Bennett neatly delineates landscapes: the feral indifference of the wild West Coast of South Island; the dwarfing, wordless northernmost outpost, where two oceans clash. The drivers who picked him up gave Bennett insights into the towns and countryside he would never have been able to discern otherwise. But what really got to him was the fleeting intimacy they shared; each of his hitches was like a confessional on wheels, a psychiatric couch barreling through the landscape. He learned things about his traveling companions that they likely never shared with their mates, and if they turned creepy sometimes, at least he knew that soon he would never see them again. No national character emerges in his narrative, but readers do get a good, long look through the eyes of working-class New Zealanders, as truck drivers were Bennett’s most common tour guides. As they got on with their work, he was “swanning, going where I wish at the pace that I wish, and exploiting their goodwill to travel for free.”

Shrewd entertainment.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-6357-X

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Scribner UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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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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