Hallock's great accomplishment here is a documentation of literary homophobia. It will take another writer to give us a...

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THE AMERICAN BYRON

HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE FALL OF FITZ-GREENE HALLECK

In his new study of a 19th-century American poet, Hallock uncovers convincing evidence that homophobic critics forced him into selfcensorship, isolation, and, ultimately, silence.

Are we talking about Walt Whitman, that Great Gay Poet of Mannahatta? No, of course not. Whitman was attacked but never gave in. It was FitzGreene Halleck (1790–1867), the dashing New Yorker who strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage and then was heard no more. He was madly in love with J.R. Drake, with whom he wrote the “Croaker Papers” (a series of poems satirizing New York society). The Croakers were the talk of the town, and so were Halleck and Drake, although they published the poems under pseudonyms. But Drake married a woman, and this left Halleck in a snit for the rest of his life. When Drake died at the age of 25, Halleck was mortified with grief and produced the widely anthologized elegy ``On the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake.'' He wrote satires—“Fanny,'' for example—that earned comparison with Byron, but this is a bit of a stretch. Halleck lived a quiet life disconnected from the history unfolding around him. He hated democracy. He called himself a monarchist. He refused to write about the Civil War because he cared for neither side. His last words were ``Marie, hand me my pantaloons, if you please.'' Byron died at war. Whitman at least got to the battleground, and he was one who never let the critics stop him from writing, even if he did censor his own lines from time to time. Hallock, a distant relative of Halleck, unfortunately never inherited his ancestor's felicity with words. He seems to have a perverse aversion to narrative, and his writing is marred by the tittering wit of the academic—as when he writes of Halleck's phallic imagery in an early poem: ``Stiff memory is penetrated by a metaphoric dart, akin to Cupid's arrow.''

Hallock's great accomplishment here is a documentation of literary homophobia. It will take another writer to give us a compelling biography of this once-famous poet.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-299-16800-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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