WALL TO WALL

FROM BEIJING TO BERLIN BY RAIL

The further travels of Morris, short-story writer and novelist (The Bus of Dreams, 1985, etc.) and author of Nothing to Declare, which documented her adventures as a woman alone on the road in Central America. Morris's brand of travelogue is again unique, never a simple summoning up of pretty landscapes, but rather an intensely personal portrait of self in foreign climes, carrying a full load of emotional baggage. Beijing is her jumping-off point for a journey on the Trans- Siberian Railroad, taking her through Mongolia, over the Urals to Moscow, Leningrad, and at last to the Ukraine—birthplace of her Russian Jewish grandmother. Alas, ten days before she leaves, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster puts the later part of her itinerary in jeopardy. But she perseveres, finding China frustrating since her train tickets aren't forthcoming and she's separated from her ``companion,'' a somewhat ambivalent significant other from back in New York. Her long days on the train across Siberia are a wash of listlessness and garrulous fellow passengers. It isn't until she reaches Moscow that she realizes the Ukraine is too dangerous to attempt, particularly when she discovers she's pregnant. In Leningrad she meets refuseniks and a gentleman who wants to buy her underwear from her, since his girlfriend likes American lingerie. And finally in Berlin she accepts that she'll never reclaim her childhood by visiting her grandmother's homeland—a sorrow tempered by her decision to keep her baby, whether her companion marries her or not. This pre-glasnost travelogue is decidedly grim, solitary, and internal, hardly so high-stepping as Morris's account of her wanderings in Central America. Still, it's an interesting installment in the story of how she changes as she moves over the earth, raising expectations for a third volume documenting future journeys, perhaps with a baby on board.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-41465-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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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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