Angstridden sex is funny, à la Philip Roth; tongueincheek memoirs are funny, à la David Sedaris. Ames can be their water-boy...



A mildly perverted, mildly humorous compilation of Ames's New York Press columns into one chunky memoir of sexridden angst.

From his young days in a backstraightening corset to the traumas of his delayed adolescence, from encounters with prostitutes (both female and transsexual) to his personal recreation of Mann's Death in Venice, Ames (The Extra Man, 1998) marshals his adventures with his penis for increasingly strained comic effect. Knowing what the word ``onanism'' means does not constitute humor, of course, yet Ames spends many pages trying to convince the reader that he is indeed really, really funny for just this kind of vocabulary (and related experiences). Sex with a prostitute who ends up throwing a cup of hot tea in his face is not so much funny as it is pathetic, despite his cheerful chirps to the contrary. Likewise, his venereal diseases do not contribute to any newly discovered comic territory: the ``w''(art) on his ``p''(enis) may have been of utmost concern to him, but how many times has the embarrassed trip to the drugstore for sexrelated products or treatment already been depicted elsewhere? Oddly, the most amusing parts of Ames's memoirs are the ones not specifically related to his own sex life: the stories of him defecating on himself (both in the south of France and New York City) portray a sense of urgency perhaps only experienced by one with equally explosive bowels, whereas his friend's invention of the ``mangina'' provides the most fruitful exploration into new and dizzying perversions.

Angstridden sex is funny, à la Philip Roth; tongueincheek memoirs are funny, à la David Sedaris. Ames can be their water-boy for now, and maybe he'll join their company when he lets his humor develop organically rather than throwing it into the reader's face.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-609-60514-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

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...



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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