As true a litmus strip as any of a country whose future hangs in strange and precarious balance. (Photos throughout)

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SCHLEPPING THROUGH THE ALPS

MY SEARCH FOR AUSTRIA’S JEWISH PAST WITH ITS LAST WANDERING SHEPHERD

Hanging out with a shepherd, journalist Apple explores the complex relationship between Austria and its Jewish inhabitants, one that doesn’t fit neatly into prescribed categories.

Hans Beuer is a Yiddish folksinger as well as the guardian of 625 sheep, a wandering Jew in the Austrian Alps. But Beuer is not some idyllic, elderly folkloric artifact; he is a man of 45 with a cell phone, a background in radical Jewish politics, a wife who no longer communes with him, and a mission to spread Yiddish culture in a country that voted into power a far-far-right politician with the shadows of Nazism hovering all about him. There are idyllic moments in the gorgeous, comforting Alpine landscape filled with wildflowers, streams, and snow-capped peaks, particularly when Beuer sings to his sheep. His reasons for song, however, are thoroughly modern: he has to calm the fretful animals so he can move them through a world in which high-country sheep cause consternation in the urban populace. And he aspires to take Yiddish culture into (at least) the next decade. Himself the recipient of a fulsome Jewish upbringing, with fond memories of a grandmother who “was reestablishing the order of the shtetl in suburban Houston,” Apple is fascinated by Beuer. Their travels bring the author face to face with any measure of Austrian anti-Semitism, and Apple discovers that the country’s gentiles are deeply ambivalent about reparations to Jewish families. But he also visits ancient Jewish town like Judenburg, and he reminds us that Austria took in Jews when the US would not. His narrative is a tumultuous mix of Nazis and neighbors, art and sex, cars and sheep, a Jewish grandmother in Houston and a girlfriend in Vienna.

As true a litmus strip as any of a country whose future hangs in strange and precarious balance. (Photos throughout)

Pub Date: March 29, 2005

ISBN: 0-345-46503-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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