In his memoir-cum-career-retrospective, Time film critic Schickel (Matinee Idylls, 1999, etc.) compares his feelings about war movies he saw as a boy with his take on those flicks today.

The author has re-seen most of those works he first viewed while growing up in small, WASPy, spankingly American Wauwatosa, a city bordering Milwaukee, and his general sense is that war movies lied to him and to the country. Even the most lauded WWII film, Robert E. Sherwood’s and William Wyler’s postwar The Best Years of Our Lives, he finds fake and intractably apolitical. Granted, it showed the trials of three servicemen returning home and adjusting to a bad marriage, a bad job, and a physical disability, but it avoided all ideological thought or discussion and belied its air of reality by timidly resolving into a fantasia of good feelings. The least lie-filled war flicks, in Schickel’s judgment, are Howard Hawks’s Air Force and William A. Wellman’s The Story of G.I. Joe. Diluting the cinema addict’s prime interest, he also surveys other forms of entertainment from his boyhood years and is quite good about the Lux Radio Theater, although his tone here is like Woody Allen’s Radio Days without the jokes. That highlights Schickel’s main failing: he informs, but he does not lift. There’s not a page here one would care to go back to for its wild humors or the pleasures of its language. And when he states that he retains his childhood preference for the service comedies of Abbott and Costello over Chaplin’s films, film buffs can only wince. Schickel was once told by a jaundiced John Gregory Dunne, “Movie reviewing is not something you aim for; it’s a place you end up.” Indeed, the critic asks himself, “Who cares what anyone thinks about old movies? Or, for that matter, last week’s movies?” Readers won’t get any answers here.

Warm but wooden.

Pub Date: April 4, 2003

ISBN: 1-56663-491-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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