Fuel for Hell’s minions, a fan’s notes for fans.


NONFICTION 2001-2014

The storied punk rocker, autodidact, and memoirist (I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, 2013) careens among a host of lit- and culture-crit topics.

The best parts of Hell’s collection of essays, taken from various publications over the last couple of decades, concern himself. Why punk? “I wasn’t choosing doubt and suspicion and despair,” he writes, “I was taken there by reality.” The author nods at intellectual ancestors: some are the usual suspects, such as Rimbaud, Warhol, and the Velvet Underground (“the first completely hitless rock and roll band to end up in everyone’s short-list pantheon of all-time best groups”), while some are less obvious—e.g., Robert Bresson and Nathanael West. Most of his scattered pieces work, as with a lovely meditation on the sometimes-unlovely graffiti found in the infamous CBGB bathroom and a muscular if unlikely celebration of muscle cars. (But does anyone really need to hear, at length, that Orson Welles was a genius?) Sometimes wistfully, sometimes nostalgically, even though he would certainly disavow such sentimentality, Hell limns an aesthetic that, like the New York scene of the mid-1970s, is part dumb and part profound. Though he takes The Ramones down a peg or two by calling them the cartoon, Bay City Rollers–ish creation they were (“they conceived of themselves as a boy band and a brand…more than anything else”), he praises tutelary spirit and partner in crime Patti Smith for a moment of punk brilliance in a book the two worked on called Merde: “She drew some pictures for it and one of them was just the penciled word ‘There’s not enuf time’ (she first wrote ‘enough’ and changed it to ‘enuf’ which was better.” Punk, he adds, is subversive, snotty, and adolescent—and, he adds from a wizened point of view, “a good idea.”

Fuel for Hell’s minions, a fan’s notes for fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59376-627-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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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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