Still, those planning a trip to the Louvre or a browsing tour through the stacks devoted to la belle France will find...

SOMETHING TO DECLARE

ESSAYS ON FRANCE

A most un-English embrace of all (well, most) things French by the noted English novelist (Love, Etc., 2001, etc.).

Barnes has a far more intimate knowledge of next-door-neighbor France than most of his famously insular (in more ways than one) compatriots, and for several reasons: “Both my parents taught French; I went to France with them on holiday; I read French at school and university; I taught for a year at a Catholic school in Rennes (where my gastronomic conservatism was unpicked); my favorite writer is Flaubert; many of my intellectual reference points are French; and so on.” These essays are an expression of his many enthusiasms, which are slightly more refined than those of one of his subjects, the historian Richard Cobb, who “preferred les petites gens both in his life and in his writing”; like Cobb, Barnes is at home among florists and bakers, parking attendants and small-town bankers, but his real loci are the likes of Monet and Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard and, yes, Gustave Flaubert, the subject of many of the pieces collected here. (Most were previously published in the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Review of Books, and elsewhere.) About Flaubert, that great examiner of the bourgeois mind, Barnes is most illuminating, finding in his writings the qualities of “fluency, profligacy, range, and sexual frankness; to which we should add power, control, wit, emotion, and furious intelligence.” Barnes’s own writings here show many of those qualities, particularly intelligence and range, but those not familiar with allusive (and elusive) style and not already disposed to share his francophilia may find them arid at times, and perhaps even beyond the ken of all but the most sophisticated native.

Still, those planning a trip to the Louvre or a browsing tour through the stacks devoted to la belle France will find Barnes’s essays to be a worthy companion.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-41513-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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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