Chummily calling his subject ``Dwight'' throughout, Wreszin (History/Queens College/CUNY) roots for Macdonald like a Cubs fan roots for the Cubs—knowing that he will be disappointed, heartbroken. Macdonald was just spiky enough of a character to make a special mark as a political and cultural critic in the 1950s and '60s. A WASP among Jews, a Trotskyite among Stalinists, a blaster of what he called ``midcult'' Book-of-the-Month-Club pieties, a stern keeper of linguistic norms, a happy dabbler in Vietnam War-era student-protest movements, Macdonald seemed to keep himself always a step away, to either the right or the left, from prevailing intellectual trends. Examined in more detail, though, Macdonald presents a muzzier picture. Personally, he was an innocent: sexually awkward, a rotten family man, almost unconsciously alcoholic. He would write for the Luce magazines, and later the New Yorker and Esquire, about topics and people and movies he cared not terribly much about—an almost eerie separation of energies from those he expended on his own iconoclastic writings for his magazine, Politics. What Wreszin wants to do—make Macdonald somehow coherent—he finally can't; and it's to his book's credit that he lets no flaw or eccentricity pass unnoticed, however diminishing it might be of Macdonald's ultimate stature. And diminishing it is, as Macdonald here emerges, ultimately, not only as a man depressed over his own unmet goals, but also as an inattentive thinker who depended more on panache and contrariness than on intellectual rigor to make points that, by the time he made them, had already been eclipsed. ``Radical humanism'' is the best term Wreszin can recommend to describe Macdonald's faith and mark—but this biography comes no closer to defining whatever that is than did ``Dwight.''

Pub Date: April 13, 1994

ISBN: 0-465-01739-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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