A witty, deft compilation of curated observations.

MORSELS OF REFLECTION

An exploration of the aphorism, a time-honored literary form that has delighted audiences for centuries.

In this slim collection of maxims, author Figna and annotator Bonini engage in a form of conversation with roots in the Socratic dialogues. Figna crafts remarks that oscillate between being sincere and tongue-in-cheek, and Bonini often responds with annotations that speak both to Figna and the reader. Although the volume is generally optimistic and affable, it’s punctuated with tart interludes of pointed cynicism, as when Figna revises a fairy tale: “Sleeping Beauty is a lady who got the dose of Valium wrong.” The adages range from the quixotic to the practical, the absurd to the serious, the personal to the political. At times, the two authors agree, but the exchanges are most thought-provoking when they diverge, as when Figna says that if she “could found cities, I would rebuild Sodom and Gomorrah,” and Bonini notes that she’d rebuild Alexandria. Bonini’s annotations often add a layer of humor to the discourse, and also explain references to authors, poets, philosophers, theorists and essayists—among them are Roland Barthes, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Rimbaud and Marcel Proust. Insights into the modern imagination abound, such as Figna’s droll twist on René Descartes’s most famous motto by substituting “coito”—Latin for “I mate”—for “cogito” in “Cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”). At times, the bons mots are so strange as to be indecipherable or so enigmatic that readers may become lost. On the whole, however, the collection reads like the intellectual diary of two writers whose combined cultural knowledge is as sharp as it is estimable.

A witty, deft compilation of curated observations.

Pub Date: July 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456784287

Page Count: 60

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

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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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