The eyes of general readers will glaze reading the lit-crit, blaze (and redden) reading the writers’ eulogies.

THE LEGACY OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

A potpourri of a literary collection—from exegeses to eulogies—all in memory and honor of Wallace (1962–2008).

Cohen (English/Univ. of Missouri; After the End of History: American Fiction in the 1990s, 2009) and Konstantinou (English/Princeton Univ.; Pop Apocalypse: A Possible Satire, 2009) collect scholarly essays about Wallace’s work, interviews with Wallace and others, tributes delivered at Wallace’s memorial service by friends and fellow writers and an essay from a literary curator about the Wallace collection at the University of Texas. Their decision to alternate scholarly pieces with personal ones was risky and causes a serious problem for the scholars. When an earnest essay dense with critical jargon (“an attempt at a Hegelian sublation of metafiction into metafiction critical of its own impulses”) appears after a moving piece by Rick Moody, the scholarly piece suffers. Over and over again, scholars weigh in and are followed by Don DeLillo, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen (whose tribute will bring tears to the eyes of nearly all readers) and others. Ending the volume with an essay about cataloging Wallace’s papers seems an odd choice in such a collection. The editors have fleet literary athletes ready to run the anchor lap, and instead choose someone who writes about categorizing types of track shoes. This is not to disparage that essay—it’s of real interest—but why at the end?

The eyes of general readers will glaze reading the lit-crit, blaze (and redden) reading the writers’ eulogies.

Pub Date: May 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60938-082-3

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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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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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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