FLAT ROCK JOURNAL

A DAY IN THE MISSOURI OZARKS

Thoreau-voiced memoir of a day off spent recharging the author's batteries by his lonesome in the Ozark woods. With his wife Sherry and three teenagers, Carey (Return of the Bird Tribes—not reviewed) lives about 12 miles from the nearest Missouri town, which itself has upward of only 600 people. For the first seven years he lived on his Ozark hilltop, he went without radio, television, newspaper, plumbing or electricity, and, with his wife, spent 110% of each day raising and canning vegetables for their year-round food supply. Their kids were utterly amazed when after seven years a huge secondhand gas-burning refrigerator arrived and helped cut down on chores. Meanwhile, the author spends this yearly day off at a mossy limestone hollow called Flat Rock and tells us much about his yarrow tea, the wildly fluctuating weather, the fierce joy amid the jagged forks of a thunderstorm, and climbing a tree in the bone-chilling rain, and the weather within, a kind of spiritual animism that sees life as a cross- species experience to be shared by those who can shed their material form—a thought not distant from Emerson's transcendental Oversoul: ``We come here, all of us, seeking a balance between energy and form, spirit and matter, between this sunlight and this clay... [A] part of me remembers these hills when they were dressed in virgin pine.'' Carey describes a mating romance among a trio of five-inch lizards as a battle of the dinosaurs not unlike the battle of the ants in Walden, and a nest of poisonous copperheads is allowed to propagate indoors under the refrigerator's gas flame. Most delightful is Carey's whistling a ditty from Handel to a pond of singing frogs, then a little Led Zepplin and a few Grateful Dead riffs: ``The frogs just eat it up.'' A model of moss-velvet nature writing, quite possibly a classic.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-251006-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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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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