Lively enough, in contradistinction to its subject, this workmanlike volume of literary history traces the underexamined phenomenon of boredom. Boredom, Spacks (Gossip, 1985; English/Univ. of Virginia) informs us, is a social construction of recent vintage. The figure of ``the bore'' first appeared in the mid-18th century; the idea of boredom emerged, like the novel, in the wake of early modernity's development of the concept of leisure. Boredom and popular writing have intimate links: Writers seek above all to be interesting (i.e., not boring), and readers follow their interests in reading, evading boredom. Not coincidentally, boredom has long fascinated popular writers as a subject. Spacks builds on these observations in developing her history of boredom in English literature. Reconsidering narration as a strategy for reclaiming life from boredom, she discusses how a wide variety of 18th-century fiction and correspondence treats that state of mind. Her investigation reveals that boredom often masks more pointed discomforts, even serving as a subtle form of aggression against resented environments. A look at how Jane Austen disciplines her title character in Emma provides a case study in what Spacks calls ``the normalization of boredom.'' As sociology has charted the spread of boredom through society, writers have continued to explore the implications of its pervasiveness and to mount resistances to it. In her final chapters, Spacks considers boredom in the context of works by such authors as Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Donald Barthelme, and Anita Brookner. However, the interest/boredom opposition, always fairly crude, seems especially inadequate for describing modern fiction, with its self-consciously alienating effects. Her discussion also lacks a real reckoning with the entertainment marketplace's appeals to (and cultivation of) boredom in the consumers of its stimulations. Nevertheless, Spacks opens up promising ground for further investigations. Perhaps a new academic subdiscipline might be in order: Anyone for Boredom Studies?

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-226-76853-8

Page Count: 289

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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