GRACE BEATS KARMA

LETTERS FROM PRISON 1958-60

Unlike the Beats and hippies he inspired and who enshrined him in turn (most notably as Dean Moriarity in On the Road), Cassady (1926-68) left behind few writings other than a big mess of a novel, The First Third (1971). What a pleasure for literary bohemians and their scholars alike, then, that Carolyn Cassady, the author's long-suffering wife (see her Off the Road, 1990), has released these several dozen letters that Cassady wrote to her (and to a few others) while imprisoned in California for selling a small quantity of marijuana to some narcs. The letters speak of mundane concerns but mostly of matters of the spirit (at the time, Cassady was obsessed with Christianity), and are written in the sort of linguistic frenzy and often inspired wordplay that energized Kerouac & Co.: ``My Dear Dear Carolyn: Not since we last quaffed, or is it quiffed, gardenias together has 2 hrs. 43 min. & 12 seconds passed so quickly as did that amount on our Wed. afternoon of consoling inspiration....''; ``Dearest Better Half, Whole Wife, Forever Best Love, Sweetest Sour Suffering, My Sins Carolyn Closest, Christ Comrade Ceaselessly Cheerful....'' This isn't everyone's cup of tea, of course, spiked as it is with huge dollops of self-indulgence, but it's a welcome—if relatively minor- -literary and cultural offering that some will down like elixir.

Pub Date: June 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-922233-08-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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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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