Unremarkable collection, overall, but a touching mirror into the souls of the greener generation.

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WRITING IN UNREADERLY TIMES

Mildly informative collection of 23 essays (and 1 poem) on the state of the literary life, by youngish authors and Web-crawlers.

Smokler, founder of centralbooking.com, divides the text into separate sections. In “Beginnings,” his earnest literary fledglings recount how they got started. “Not Fade Away” explains why reading Hemingway during his Army stint in Somalia prodded Christian Bauman to start writing—“they should take away my writing license for saying such a thing,” he jokes. “The Invisible Narrator” describes Howard Hunt’s segue from writing for magazines to composing successful fiction. Michelle Richmond meditates on the empty merits of earning an MFA in “From Fayetteville to South Beach.” Then, seven essays on “The Writing Life” expose just how egotistical writers are. Glen David Gold admits to shameless self-Googling in “Your Own Personal Satan,” while Neal Pollack’s “Her Dark Silent Cowboy No More” recounts the exchange of e-mails he solicited after his book Never Mind the Pollacks (2003) reached “cult” status. “The trajectory of my life has been set by the movements of dollars,” Benjamin Nugent reveals in “Security.” The final sections, “The Now” and “The Future,” showcase essayists attempting more grand statements. Tracy Chevalier, one of the better-known authors here, gives lackluster Top Ten reading recommendations in “Lying to the Optician.” K.M. Soehnlein’s laments gay writing’s loss of prominence. Paul Flores, in “Voice of a Generation,” describes his workshop experience using Spanglish rap to promote the spoken word. His generation must contend with an “unprecedented number of time-sucking lures,” such as video games, Tom Bissell moans in “Distractions.” Readers worrying that every member of this age group is unbearably self-important should turn immediately to Robert Lanham’s scorching “The McEggers Tang Clan,” hands-down the collection’s funniest essay.

Unremarkable collection, overall, but a touching mirror into the souls of the greener generation.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-07844-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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