Vargas Llosa’s many admirers will share that pleasure with this fine collection.

THE LANGUAGE OF PASSION

SELECTED COMMENTARY

Reviews, travel journalism, and assorted feuilletons from the noted Peruvian novelist (The Feast of the Goat, 2001, etc.).

“Novelist” just begins to cover the ground, for like many other Latin American writers of his generation—he was born in Lima in 1937 and began to write professionally in Spain in the late ’50s—Vargas Llosa cut his teeth writing for daily papers and magazines. He continues to contribute to such periodicals; most of the pieces gathered in this exemplary volume, covering the ’90s, first saw print in his occasional column in the Madrid daily El País. Less afraid of big ideas and big words than most American papers, the post-Franco Spanish press proves an ideal testing ground for Vargas Llosa’s contrarian musings on such matters as Third World development, free markets, and modern literature. A longtime anticommunist liberal, for instance, Vargas Llosa disputes the notion that the developing world is poor because of some inherent defect in its peoples’ wealth-making capabilities: the people are poor, to be sure, he writes, but only because the rich loot them “to enjoy an Arabian Nights–style opulence,” and to the tune of billions of dollars. Throughout, he comes down more on the side of Milton Friedman than Frederick Engels, but, much as he dislikes Fidel Castro, Vargas Llosa is no reactionary. One of the best pieces here is an unexpected homage to the Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley, under whose influence Vargas Llosa’s son became a Rastafarian, and whom Vargas Llosa belatedly praises for his political universalism and tasteful tunes. Elsewhere, Vargas Llosa profiles the many great writers of the Barcelona of his youth—“In those days,” he writes, “Barcelona was down-at-the-heels, cosmopolitan, and international; now it is extremely rich, provincial, and nationalist”—and takes well-aimed potshots at superstar authors, current leaders, and world events, an array of targets that he takes evident pleasure in addressing.

Vargas Llosa’s many admirers will share that pleasure with this fine collection.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-18326-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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