A community activist details the culture and conflicts of New York subway music, from bucket-drummers to city bureaucrats. Urban centers must constantly renegotiate the fuzzy boundary between freedom of speech and public nuisance, outdoor art and disturbance of the peace. In this exhaustive and disappointingly academic study, Tanenbaum begins by locating subway music in its cultural and political context, but as music underground is a relatively young phenomenon, this background becomes an incomplete history of street entertainment in New York. The author laboriously defines the difference between official or ceremonial subway music and the ``freelance'' performances of today's troubadours, and provides personal sketches of various players, riders, transit police officers, and subway personnel; she reprints verbatim their written answers to a survey she conducted several years ago. In describing the interactions between musician and audience, Tanenbaum suggests that the presence of spontaneous performance creates a multicultural community in a space normally considered a necessary evil, to be navigated as quickly as possible. Having established subway music as an absolute good and subway musicians as messengers of harmony in a troubled city, she moves into a comprehensive review of the political debate: the Music Under New York Program, which officially sponsors certain performances; ongoing legal battles; poorly defined regulations; pleasure versus noise. Tanenbaum wishes that the Transit Authority would listen to the opinions of the players and their audiences (as she has) and work with them to ``nurtur[e] urban diversity underground.'' But the resolute independence that leads a musician to set out a hat on a New York City subway platform seems incompatible with her vague vision. The New York subway's modern minstrels are a lyrical subject that here undergoes a lengthy and pedantic scrutiny in a prose devoid of lyricism. (27 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8014-3051-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Cornell Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1995

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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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