FRIENDS TALKING IN THE NIGHT

SIXTY YEARS OF WRITING FOR THE NEW YORKER

A mainstay of the New Yorker staff since 1939, Hamburger has written everything from —Talk of the Town— entries to casuals and profiles; he even served as music critic and movie reviewer. Dozens of pieces are collected here, arranged chronologically within each category. The few comments provided by Hamburger are helpful: A “Stanley” essay was written, for example, to explore “small, little-known islands in the East River and New York Harbor,” and was authored by none other than the self-styled —Our Man Stanley.— Much of the material is dated; some of Hamburger’s observations appear comically off the mark. For instance, in 1950 he became the first New Yorker writer to venture into the “cultural minefield” of television. He describes the early Candid Camera TV series as “sadistic, poisonous, anti-human, and sneaky”; he dismisses Frank Sinatra and his singing on the October 1951 debut of his show as being either “asleep or else . . . quite ill.” Hamburger fared a bit better as an —amateur” music critic in the late 1940s, although Toscanini demanded that he be fired. Hamburger wrote many fine profiles over the years, with the best a 1986 piece on Vartan Gregorian. His parodic profile of then-popular J.P. Marquand may be lost on many readers today. A 1944 profile of Louie the Waiter at the Sixth Avenue Delicatessen—a man noted not only for his service-oriented doggerel, but for selling $4 million worth of war bonds—is a prime example of New Yorker writing at its finest. Uneven, but what writer’s 60-year output wouldn’t be? There’s great stuff here, representative of a kind of writing and reportage that, sadly, is passing.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-43883-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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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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