An unremarkable gathering of fiction, poetry, and essays by writers who have involved themselves over the years with the National Undergraduate Literature Conference held at Weber State University in Utah, where the editors teach. Many of the writers here (e.g., Ann Beattie, E.L. Doctorow, Carolyn Forche) are widely anthologized elsewhere. And lacking a strong thematic focus, this collection can't seem to find its own identity, although a handful of pieces do consider reading and writing as a topic. In Ray Bradbury's pleasantly manic story, a small-town boy meets up with an exotic out-of-town adult who claims to be Charles Dickens but is really a failed writer. The boy's admiration for the Dickens impersonator offers a parable as well as a fantasy—the enthusiastic reader as the best possible crony for any author, whether faux or bona fide. George Garrett's essay is another standout: He crisply tells the tale of his father's right- minded revenge on the bigoted southern burg where he practiced law. ``This is a true story about my father, a true story with the shape of a piece of fiction. Well, why not?'' begins Garrett. ``The purpose of fiction is simply to tell the truth.'' Richard Ford's reminiscence about his early struggles to be published cheerfully dismisses conventional career wisdom about how to enter the literary ranks. Ford's bemusement with bromides leads to a realism that's appealing and convincing. Too many writers, though, don't contribute their best work to the volume. The poems by Garrett, Howard McCord, and Catherine Bowman are unextraordinary, and Doctorow's brief essay about his boyhood discovery of reading is emphatically minor. John Barth's ``Excerpt From the Tidewater Tales'' is a coy, tirelessly self-conscious flirtation with fiction as a genre. Only a small number of pieces included have not been published previously. Mainly, this is a souvenir program for a creative writing symposium.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-87905-794-7

Page Count: 344

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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