Not as agreeable as this season’s other Author Abroad memoir, Roland Merullo’s The Italian Summer (2009), but more rigorous...

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THE LAST SUPPER

A SUMMER IN ITALY

As elegantly written and astutely observed as her fiction (Arlington Park, 2007, etc.), Cusk’s memoir describes looking at art and getting to know the locals from Tuscany to Naples.

The author and her husband sold their house in England, took their two daughters out of school and “decided to go to Italy, though not forever. Three months, a season, was as much of the future as we cared to see.” Cusk’s sharp wit is apparent even when perusing an Italian phrase book, “where Tony and Mario are forever ordering the appropriate coffee…and Marcella, in her loop of eternity, stands on a street corner in Verona asking Fabrizio for directions to the railway station.” She’s less appealing when bemoaning the physical ugliness of the modern world and snobbishly disdaining tourists who, like her, came to Italy to imbibe beauty. Just because these hapless folks stand in long museum lines—they hadn’t the foresight to book tickets ahead as Cusk did—and arrive in tour buses instead of in their own car, they aren’t necessarily incapable of appreciating Piero della Francesca or Raphael as much as the sensitive author. Still, Cusk’s assessments of art are wonderfully idiosyncratic, as is her analysis of Italian food: “soft and feminine…kind to children.” A cranky tour guide is preferable to a boring one, and except when dealing with the tourist hoi polloi, the author is sharp rather than nasty. Her account of a series of tennis matches brilliantly captures people’s personalities through their style of play, and her character sketches throughout are equally revealing. Husband and children are never named and deliberately left in vague outline, but we sense the family’s closeness and come to agree with Cusk that her daughters “have been formed, not bereaved,” by their sudden uprooting from everything familiar in their lives. Now they have their mother’s atmospheric account as a keepsake.

Not as agreeable as this season’s other Author Abroad memoir, Roland Merullo’s The Italian Summer (2009), but more rigorous and compelling.

Pub Date: June 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-374-18403-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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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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IN MY PLACE

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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