Early in this massive biography, Ambrose makes the ironic statement that, at 25, Nixon was considered to be so honest, scrupulous, and upright that had he opened a used-car lot, his peers would have flocked to buy cars from him. The statement captures the tone of this, the definitive biography of an enigma. Ambrose, whose career as a historian has seemed to gel in recent years as the primary biographer of Eisenhower, captures Nixon as a prisoner of ironies in this first of two volumes that takes us up to the "last press conference" after Nixon's 1962 California gubernatorial defeat. Nixon's rise was meteoric. (Consider the equivalent: a freshman representative entering Congress this year would be elected Vice-President in 1992!) But, as Ambrose shows, this was only typical. Within months of joining any organization, from grade school on, Nixon would so shine that he would be granted the presidency. It was only natural that he should consider the Vice-Presidency and Presidency as plausible career steps. But it wasn't just a matter of brutal ambition. Friends and enemies alike conceded that the man possessed a brilliant political mind. And this, in turn, was fed by a remarkable memory and sheer hard work (Nixon could go days without sleep in preparing for important trips or events). It was unfortunate for him that he had to ride the coattails of Eisenhower, whose feelings for Nixon were fatherly in the best and worst sense of the word. While grooming Nixon to take on the burdens of the Presidency, he never quite considered him mature enough. Nixon's tireless and great service to the Republican Party often irked Eisenhower, who cared not a whit for party affiliation. Ambrose brings out other ironies'. The supposed campaign of vilification against Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950, for instance, was actually begun by Douglas, who first tried to besmirch Nixon's voting record! And the conception of Nixon as an extreme right-winger depended too heavily on Nixon's partisan lambasting of Democrats who were "soft on Communism." Ambrose convincingly demonstrates that in domestic policies, Nixon was actually one of the more progressive Republicans of the 1950's, but he had to quell that spirit because of Eisenhower. Nixon's progressivism was particularly apparent in his promotion of black rights. In this regard, Martin Luther King, Jr., actually voted for the Eisenhower ticket in 1956 because of Nixon. Most previous biographies of Nixon have either been admiring political studies or hatchet jobs by obvious enemies. Ambrose rights both of their wrongs and gives us a wonderful preliminary to the final volume, which will chronicle Nixon's resurrection, triumph, and fall. Masterful biography.

Pub Date: April 1, 1987

ISBN: 0671654381

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1987

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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