TROPICAL CLASSICAL

ESSAYS FROM SEVERAL DIRECTIONS

CondÇ Nast Traveler contributing editor Iyer submits a disparate collection of meditations that, taken together, offer a fascinating portrait of the turbulent and tentative emergence of a truly global culture. Travel assumes many guises in this compilation, and while Iyer (Cuba and the Night, 1995, etc.) does indeed take us to far-off exotic lands in several essays (including a trip to the empty spaces of Ethiopia, where he discovers a vibrant form of Christendom and churches filled with white-robed priests), he also profiles literary figures, foreign and domestic, whose work transcends—or is emblematic of—a national identity. He also ruminates more broadly on the cross-border influences of popular culture. An essay on the filming of Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha in a village in Nepal points out how some of the more peculiar attributes of ordinary Nepalese life are made even more bizarre under the sway of the film crew. Visiting Bombay, his ancestral homeland, Iyer writes of the zanily complicated and teeming city as a ``pressure point for an archetypal global struggle between a multicultural future and a tribal past.'' Iyer profiles three of the ``masters'' of the evolving literary form that he has dubbed ``tropical classical''—poet Derek Walcott, novelist Michael Ondaatje, and essayist Richard Rodriguez—noting that each is ``trying to put the realities of our multinational present into the established structures of the past; to link the traditions of our textbooks with the changing societies around us.'' An assortment of literary essays, focusing on authors such as R.K. Narayan, Salman Rushdie, and Kazuo Ishiguro, among others, also sounds this theme: Writers everywhere, he says, ``are using the words they've learned at their masters' feet to turn their masters' literature on its head.'' A pleasing, occasionally sobering, and provocative exploration of the new culture emerging around us and the figures bringing it to life.

Pub Date: April 20, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-45432-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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