Studded with intriguing moments but not as entertaining as Wood’s previous travelogues. Despite moments of hospitality and...



A British adventure traveler’s journey through the tumultuous lands of the Middle East.

A former officer in the British Parachute Regiment who has spent time in the Middle East on and off since his university days in the early 2000s, Wood (Walking the Americas: 1,800 Miles, Eight Countries, and One Incredible Journey from Mexico to Colombia, 2018, etc.) has dedicated his life to travel as a writer and “occasional photojournalist.” Here, the author chronicles his journey from September 2017 through spring 2018, painting a vivid yet troubling portrait of the fraught land and people of the region. Tracing the “fault-lines of the geopolitical arena,” he began his journey in war-torn northern Syria, following the course of the Tigris River, where he was roughly guided into active fighting in Iraq by Amar, a brusque, war-embittered undercover operative. As the author made his dangerous journey east, he writes, the “normalization of violence…made the place so bizarre, terrifying and alluring at the same time.” In the Gulf states, Wood witnessed how oil changed everything for each nation, allowing them power on the world stage yet miring them deeply in a chasm of wealth discrepancy, mainly between Arab haves and migrant have-nots. (The author barely mentions the rampant sexism and misogyny.) After an arduous camel ride through the Empty Quarter of Oman, Wood ascended the imposing Dhofar ridge, skirted the perilous civil war of Yemen, and entered the Somali pirate waters of the Gulf of Arden. Then he traveled through the secretive police state of Saudi Arabia, the serene desert of Jordan, the devastated West Bank, and, finally, the relative stability of Lebanon. Sadly, the author found that the ancient nomadic tribes have coalesced into a modern "affiliation of blood gangs,” locked in bitter wars against each other, corrupted by oil, and fractured by their separate brands of identity.

Studded with intriguing moments but not as entertaining as Wood’s previous travelogues. Despite moments of hospitality and friendship, this seasoned traveler experienced a crushing loss of innocence on a trip that was less a joyful journey than a kind of penance.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4732-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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