ELAINE AND BILL: PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE

THE LIVES OF WILLEM AND ELAINE DE KOONING

An unvarnished life of ``action painter'' Willem de Kooning and his artist-wife, by Hall (past president of the Rhode Island School of Design; Betty Parsons, 1991—not reviewed). While focusing on the deeply troubled relationship between the introverted Dutch-born Abstract Expressionist and the ebullient Brooklyn woman he married, Hall also presents an overview of the couple's art-world contemporaries: Jackson Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner; Arshile Gorky; Robert Motherwell; David Smith; Franz Kline—in Hall's telling, a pretty unappealing lot of bed-hopping brawlers, blowhards, and bigots. The de Kooning marriage was an open one with each partner engaging in a seemingly endless series of affairs: As her husband's reputation as a leader of the emerging New York School of the 1950's gathered steam, Elaine, in order to further his career, embarked on affairs with art critics Thomas Hess and Harold Rosenberg. Even so, fellow action-painter Jackson Pollock's reputation outshone de Kooning's, at least in the popular press, and the two men became rivals, not only for artistic kudos but also for women. Who could best hold his liquor also became a point of contention, though both ended up as alcoholics. When Pollock was killed in a car crash while drunk, de Kooning's reputation as ``the greatest American painter'' soared. His works commanded higher and higher prices—but his drinking escalated as well. The de Koonings eventually separated after Willem fathered an illegitimate child and Elaine sank into dipsomania. But after 20 years, the couple reunited, and Elaine, recovering from alcoholism, devoted her final years to protecting the health and reputation of her husband, who became ever more reclusive and detached. In 1989, Elaine died of lung cancer; today, the ``American Picasso'' has been declared mentally incompetent, his daughter and a lawyer acting as his co-conservators. Written in pedestrian prose—but nonetheless a continually engrossing, if depressing, portrait of an American master. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen)

Pub Date: June 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-018305-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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