A rambunctious volume of short, well-crafted essays from a man with a strong point of view.



A collection of political and cultural essays tackles big issues.

“Most of my life I’ve been called both unrealistically naive and overly cynical,” writes Townsend (Human Compassion for Beginners, 2018, etc.) in the introduction to this volume, which covers many of the most divisive fault lines in the current political moment. Perhaps both of these things are requirements for a progressive—or at least one with a sense of humor—which is what the author reveals himself to be as he opines on such topics as religion, capitalism, and the ballooning climate crisis. He gets into narrower issues as well, including in his critique of Israel’s Palestinian policy from the perspective of a Jewish American (albeit one who converted to Judaism after leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of his youth). He writes about why classes on race, gender, and social justice should be mandatory in the workplace. He bemoans the internecine fighting in the Democratic Party between moderates and progressives, all of whom seem more willing to blame Democrats than denounce the Republicans. Each essay comes from Townsend’s particular perspective of growing up gay in the conservative confines of the Latter-day Saints church as well as the pull between the traditions of his upbringing and the necessities of an inclusive modern society. Through anecdotes, observations, and a fair bit of ranting, the author attempts to cajole America back into some semblance of common sense. Townsend writes in an energetic prose that balances crankiness and humor. “When Facebook developed its additional line of emojis to satisfy users who wanted to do more than simply Like another person’s post or comment, we were happy,” begins one essay. “After all, if a Friend posted about their dying cat, we could hardly click Like in response.” The book reads more like a collection of newspaper columns than a work of cultural criticism (and many of these pieces did originally appear as editorials). How much readers will agree with the author will likely depend on their own political beliefs. That said, those who share his worldview—and perhaps feel that same cynic/naif dichotomy within themselves—will applaud his arguments, particularly those regarding the seriousness of climate change.

A rambunctious volume of short, well-crafted essays from a man with a strong point of view.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64438-034-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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