Compares favorably, piece by piece, to its cousins in poetry and short story.

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THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2002

Eighteenth edition of the annual known for its high standards lives up to its predecessors.

Editor Gould, who died in May, was himself an accomplished essayist whose columns in Natural History have earned him a place just below Thomas Huxley's in the ranks of scientific prose masters. Oddly, he did not select many scientifically oriented pieces for this collection, though there are three particularly strong essays on medical topics. Atul Gawande's “Final Cut,” which reports on the modern disregard of autopsies as well as describing in grim detail how autopsies are carried out, will provoke thought—and perhaps some reader's stomachs as well. Jonathan Franzen’s “My Father's Brain,” a beautifully written memoir of Ed Franzen's lapse into Alzheimer's, presages the author's fictional The Corrections (2001). Finally, Barbara Ehrenreich smashes through the pieties of “survivorhood and sisterhood” that surround breast cancer in “Welcome to Cancerland” (also in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, edited by Natalie Angier, above). Reporting on the oddly infantalizing and upbeat culture enforced on breast cancer sufferers, Ehrenreich views the pink ribbons and teddy bears handed out in cancer support groups as “amulets and talismans, comforting the survivor”; she prefers anger and investigation of the environmental causes of breast cancer, an area of research not encouraged by the corporate-funded American Cancer Society. Gould’s introduction remarks with some understated dismay on the confessional tone prevalent among essayists today, which may lead readers to wonder what prompted him to include Bernard Cooper’s whiny memoir, “Winner Take Nothing.” The editor remarks more happily on the high quality of the 9/11 essays, of which the best is “Turning Point,” by Rudolph Chelminski. Taking an oblique angle to the attack, Chelminski profiles French tightrope walker Philippe Petit, who walked across a cable between the Twin Towers in 1974.

Compares favorably, piece by piece, to its cousins in poetry and short story.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-21388-0

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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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