A welcome, well-written addition to Kafka studies, valuable in its portrayal of the writer as a human being, not a monument.

KAFKA’S LAST LOVE

THE MYSTERY OF DORA DIAMANT

Moving account of the one-woman phenomenon who, among other things, made the unhappy Franz Kafka’s final year a little less miserable.

Many standard biographies of Kafka have little or nothing to say about Dora Diamant (1898–1952), a free-spirited woman who left her Polish Hasidic family to work as a Zionist activist, sometime film actress, bookseller, all-around cultural force, and flame of many a man’s desire. Yet Diamant, states namesake (but no known relation) Kathi Diamant (Kafka Project/San Diego State Univ.), sparked something in Kafka from their very first meeting in Berlin in 1922. Through her influence, the desperately ill writer lightened up just a little, and their late-into-the-night whisperings about moving together to Palestine seem to have helped him cope with the daily sufferings brought about by wasting tuberculosis. Kafka kept his relationship with Dora private, save for a mention or two in postcards to his friend and later biographer Max Brod, who upon meeting her characterized the relationship as “an idyll. . . . At last I saw my friend in good spirits.” Dora was Kafka’s constant companion, and Diamant maintains that he died in her arms. (Other sources either do not record this datum or have it that she was out of the room when he slipped away.) After his death, Dora safeguarded Kafka’s papers and manuscripts, destroying some of them as he asked, but keeping others that fell into the hands of the Gestapo and have never been recovered. She fled to England and was interned as an enemy alien until, thanks to some literate intercessor’s recognition of her relationship with the writer, she was allowed to move to London, where she died—but not without first traveling to Israel and saying a prayer for her old lover.

A welcome, well-written addition to Kafka studies, valuable in its portrayal of the writer as a human being, not a monument.

Pub Date: April 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-465-01550-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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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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