Rattling stories that repel and attract the reader like natural forces, dreadful and irresistible.



A discomforting collection of stories of people in extremely straitened circumstances, stranded and often with nothing to eat but their deceased comrades, assembled by Hardcastle (Deep Blue, not reviewed).

Among these 16 stories are a few fiction pieces, little excerpted gems from Twain, Defoe, Melville, and Jack London, of cannibals and shipwreck. They serve to lighten the otherwise dreadful load borne by the other works, nonfiction accounts of surviving horrible ordeals, some more, some less convincing, but all enthralling in their misery. There is material here from Virginia Reed Murphy on her experiences with the Donner Party, though she skirts the cannibalism issue, and Tobias Schneebaum recounts an episode in the Peruvian wild in which he partakes of a piece of a rival warrior's heart, heavily charged with Schneebaum's sexual imagery and not the more persuasive for it. Leonard Clark also went to the Peruvian Amazon, back in the 1940s in search of El Dorado, and wound up barely escaping from a group of ecstatic fighters, lost in a world of sorcery that Clark describes fabulously, although other members of his party were not so fortunate to tell of it. The tales of being lost at sea are the most finely crafted and the most disturbing. Steven Callahan was adrift for 76 days, and even in this excerpt, he manages to catch the cadence of his days, struggling to catch fish and collect water and keep his mind from unhinging. The story that leaves the most terrible impression is Louise Longo's. Sailing with her husband and five-year-old daughter, their boat sunk. First her husband died, then a freighter came along but wasn’t able to get her and her daughter aboard, then, the seawater lapping on the lifeboat's floor, her daughter died, “all at once, before I had time to see death arrive.”

Rattling stories that repel and attract the reader like natural forces, dreadful and irresistible.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56025-367-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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