NO MAN'S LAND

THE PLACE OF THE WOMAN WRITER IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, VOL. III: LETTERS FROM THE FRONT

The final third of this feminist literary study maintains the quality of volumes I (The War of the Words, 1987) and II (Sexchanges, 1989) as it looks at women writers' exploration of our century's complex and ever-shifting cultural scene, particularly the thorny question of gender. Gilbert and Gubar take a generally chronological approach, beginning with the modernists. In their analysis, Virginia Woolf sketched scenarios challenging traditional sex roles, as well as the historical settings and the social hierarchies in which they functioned. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Marianne Moore were ``female female impersonators'' who exploited femininity's artificiality in an imaginative but uncertainly empowering way. The authors then move on to the Harlem Renaissance, arguing that such writers as Nora Zeale Hurston, Jessie Redmon Faucet, and Nella Larsen worked to reveal the ``authentic (black) feminine'' behind racial stereotypes and criticized (white) feminism. Intertwining the poet and her work, a chapter on HD maintains that she produced her long poems by consciously manipulating images of herself. Moving forward to WW II, Gilbert and Gubar discuss the period's ``blitz on women'': Cheesecake pinups on tanks and VD posters conflated sex and death, while even positive images of the women left behind were tinged with resentment. They contend that metaphors from the war, transformed into images of sexual battle, haunted the poems of Sylvia Plath, who fought toward a way of being a woman beyond the old patriarchal traditions. At once playful and thoughtful, the final chapter considers the multiplicity of women's stories via the authors' several rewrites of Snow White—e.g., the no-longer-evil queen challenges gender roles by advising Snow White to ``marry the Prince but sleep with me too,'' while in another version a critically savvy queen realizes they're all ``merely signifiers, signifying nothing.'' A satisfying conclusion to an ambitious project.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1994

ISBN: 0-300-05631-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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