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SELECTED WRITINGS 1990-2010

An assortment of essays, reviews, and excerpts from British travel writer and biographer Wheeler (The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle, 2012, etc.).

Spanning 20 years (1990–2010), the pieces are loosely organized around a number of different themes, such as recollections from her earliest travels (most notably as a 20-year-old in Poland in 1981) and her first excursions into the polar regions (an interest that has spawned two travel books, a biography and a children’s book). She has a number of short biographical essays on others, including reviews of biographies of travel writers she admired. Wheeler also examines some much more mundane adventures, including learning to belly dance in a gym near her apartment and climbing into bed with a catalog from Argos, the U.K. department-store chain, which she claims is one of only a few activities that “guarantee pleasure.” While this collection has its high points—for example, her early travel writing—it also has the unfortunate effect of highlighting the problems with Wheeler’s work. For example, she falls backs on the phrase “tweed-skirted Victorian[s]” to describe two different 19th-century travel writers, Mary Kingsley and Isabella Bird, in two different essays published five years apart. In the introduction, she asks, “Don’t you sometimes find daily life almost unbearably poetic?” Unfortunately, most of her prose is flat and declamatory, lacking the poetic details she claims to love. At the same time, her brief biographies of other travel writers often serve to drive home the point that there are much more interesting travel writers out there.

Uneven and mostly bland.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-86547-877-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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