OPPOSITE ATTRACTION

THE LIVES OF ERICH MARIA REMARQUE AND PAULETTE GODDARD

Overlong and breathlessly written, this dual biography of a German novelist and a Hollywood star wilts well before their late- life romance finally blooms. Gilbert (Ferber: The Biography of Edna Ferber and Her Circle, 1978) sets herself an ambitious, intriguing program. Alternating chapters narrate two converging stories. One concerns novelist Erich Maria Remarque, who made his reputation by penning the famous account of the horrors of WW I All Quiet on the Western Front. Hitler's ascension to power found the dashing Remarque expatriated to Switzerland and the United States, where he would become a cosmopolitan playboy. Remarque's later novels included some big sellers, but the true dramas unfolded in his affairs with the world's leading ladies, chief among them Marlene Dietrich. Gilbert's other story here concerns the actress Paulette Goddard. Rising from humble beginnings, she took the roaring '20s by storm. Paulette married rich—inspiring, some claim, How to Marry a Millionaire—divorced, made her way to Hollywood, and was cast by Charlie Chaplin in his classic Modern Times. Chaplin, for a time Goddard's husband, introduced her to powerful circles, where she captivated famous personages from George Gershwin to Anthony Eden. By the late 1940s, however, Goddard's star was in eclipse. Happily, she met Remarque, who was comfortable enough writing his more or less successful novels and screenplays, enjoying more or less masochistic relationships, and amassing a spectacular art collection. Relying heavily on transcriptions from diaries and letters, Gilbert details how the couple met, fell in love, and subsequently fell into decline together. Her account of their marriage, while complete, fails to provide satisfying resolutions to their two stories. Despite their moments of glamour, Goddard and Remarque emerge here neither as fascinating individuals nor as a uniquely interesting couple. This book's index will provide a veritable dictionary of 20th century celebrity. Too bad that the Goddard and Remarque don't stand out from this crowd. (b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 26, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-41535-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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