Known primarily as a novelist (Working Men, 1993; Morning Girls, 1992; The Crown of Columbus with his wife, Louise Erdrich, 1991) and for The Broken Cord, which described his oldest son Abel's affliction with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), Dorris here offers an array of previously published essays. Some are personal, about growing up and becoming a parent; some are polemical, concerning Native Americans and their history. However diverse the original audiences—the pieces appeared in the New York Times, Family Circle, TV Guide, and elsewhere—Dorris' engaging and incisive style holds them all together. Part Indian himself, raised by his war-widowed mother, grandmother, and aunt, and the adoptive single parent of three Indian children (before his marriage to Erdrich), Dorris brings a rare sensitivity and a unique point of view to such universal experiences as baking a cake for his son's nursery school party, traveling cross-country with his children, finding the ``great pie,'' and piercing his son's ear. The heavy observations begin with the adolescence of his children, all three of whom suffered from FAS (which he described for Newsweek and in a report for the Centers for Disease Control). He evokes the frustrations and resourcefulness of a parent whose children are prone to unpredictable, sometimes violent behavior. He recounts how Abel died after being struck by a motorist just as filming began for a TV movie of the The Broken Cord. Much of Paper Trail is about Native Americans and the stereotypes, realities, and cultural fictions that perpetuate their marginal status in America. Though all the essays are grounded in a sense of private history, Dorris does consider, more generally, questions about the nature and function of history. In such pieces, the novelist becomes a cultural commentator, learned, persuasive, overcoming guilt by issuing a call for responsibility. Collectively, the essays evoke the pathos, joy, and mystery of unaccountable suffering and unbearable loss, of spiritual triumph and enduring love, conveying universal experiences in a simple and touching language.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-016971-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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