Deliciously gossipy, sometimes catty, yet never mean-spirited: a delightful snapshot of bohemian New York in the mid-20th...

DIGRESSIONS ON SOME POEMS BY FRANK O’HARA

Engaging memoir, completed just before the author’s death in 2001, of his ten years with poet O’Hara.

They met in 1951 and began living together in 1955 in one of those committed-but-not-quite relationships that were common among gay men at the time: “Frank would be made to feel he was more important to me than anyone in my life . . . while I would continue to have my sexual freedom.” LeSueur was a native Californian, survivor of stints as a soldier, an elementary-school teacher, and a “kept boy” who found with O’Hara (1926–66), slightly older and far more sophisticated, with his day job at the Museum of Modern Art and his Abstract Expressionist buddies, the glamorous New York life he had always dreamed of. Together they drank hard, saw a lot of movies, attended classical concerts and the ballet, and hung out with an amazing roster of the city’s brightest talents. John Ashbery, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Edwin Denby, Robert Motherwell, Ned Rorem, Kenneth Koch, Fairfield Porter, and Tennessee Williams are just a sampling of the famous names lightly dropped in LeSueur’s appealing text, which takes what little organization it has from the O’Hara poems that head each chapter. (Not the least of the pleasures here is the opportunity to rediscover the witty, vigorously colloquial verse of one of the urban experiences’s most enticing bards.) Sometimes LeSueur recalls how or where a poem was written—generally with extreme nonchalance in the midst of the hubbub O’Hara loved—sometimes it prompts more loosely connected reminiscences of a period in their lives or a friendship. The very casual structure occasionally sags dangerously, but it’s always rescued by the charm of LeSueur’s voice, which also brilliantly recaptures a bygone age in homosexual culture when gay men could be out of the closet, even swishy and campy, but only among their bohemian intimates, gay or straight.

Deliciously gossipy, sometimes catty, yet never mean-spirited: a delightful snapshot of bohemian New York in the mid-20th century.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-13980-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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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