For all those Trekkies who—even after repeatedly watching hundreds of episodes of Star Trek and its sequels—still haven't got the show figured out, this book just might do the trick. Despite his dubious claim that no other books have tried to catalog the meanings of Star Trek, novelist Richards (Zero Tolerance, 1996, etc.) does a sound job of mining broad themes, attitudes, and implications from the various Trek series. Perhaps because it lasted many seasons longer than any of the others—and preferred metaphysical speculation and diplomacy over Captain Kirkstyle fisticuffs with aliens—Star Trek: The Next Generation provides most of Richards's material. A former Harvard English professor, Richards usually manages to keep his deconstructionism dumbed down to a level accessible to teenage sci-fi fans (although he often seems to be pining for the Elysian fields of lit-crit academic discourse). While the general tendency in myth is toward tragedy, this is not the case with Star Trek, which is motivated, he asserts, by ``essentially comic visions emphasizing the triumph of the hero, the flourishing of civilization, and the importance of all action.'' No doubt the usually sunny, comic vision of commercial television is also responsible, but this is the kind of analysis Richards shies away from. He is concerned with the ``what,'' not the ``why,'' mooting almost any discussion of the nonhermeneutical meanings of Star Trek. Thus, there is nothing, for example, on why the Federation's benign variant of expansionism/imperialism looks a lot like a sci-fi version of the ``Great Society.'' Within the ``text'' of the show, however, Richards's analysis is excellent and covers everything from theology to the emphasis on individualism that lies at the very heart of the Star Trek universe. Though this isn't exactly rocket science, Richards does a fine job with the material at hand. If only he'd boldly dared to go a little further.

Pub Date: July 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-48437-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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