This isn’t essential Auster, but fans and scholars of his work will undoubtedly be charmed and intrigued by his evolving...

TALKING TO STRANGERS

SELECTED ESSAYS, PREFACES, AND OTHER WRITINGS, 1967-2017

An eclectic collection of essays from the 50-year career of a beloved novelist and thinker.

In the first piece, Auster (4 3 2 1, 2017, etc.) muses that “to feel estranged from language is to lose your own body. When words fail you, you dissolve into an image of nothingness. You disappear.” One can forgive him for a bit of youthful melodrama, as the essay was written in 1967, when the author was only 20 years old and his illustrious literary career still years away. Still, it’s a start to the collection, which skips through that career at a chipper pace, highlighting some of his famous essays and criticism along with several pieces that have never been published. Selections from the 1970s are particularly erudite; Auster was then a young poet and little-known novelist, but he made a name for himself contributing pieces of literary criticism to the New York Review of Books. Beckett and Kafka—two writers with undeniable influences on Auster’s own fiction—appear for the first time there and then several more times throughout the book. One of the most engaging essays is also one that another writer or editor might have shoved, forgotten, in a drawer: a lecture from 1982 at Seton Hall that becomes a fascinating exploration of the influence of European readership on Edgar Allan Poe, which is particularly interesting considering how popular Auster would become in Europe. Later in the collection, the essays branch out from literature to other art forms, as Auster writes about filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, illustrator Joe Brainard, and even New York Mets pitcher Terry Leach. They also turn more personal, with the author examining everything from an ode to his beloved typewriter (which Auster traveled with for decades even as the world turned to computers and word processing) to a somber remembrance of his family’s experiences during 9/11.

This isn’t essential Auster, but fans and scholars of his work will undoubtedly be charmed and intrigued by his evolving thoughts on art, language, and other assorted topics.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20629-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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