DON'T STAND TOO CLOSE TO A NAKED MAN

The spawn of Seinlanguage: shticky meditations by a stand-up comic who now stars in a top-rated television show. As Tim Taylor, Allen is the focal point of Home Improvement, but his manly-man persona plays off his wife, ``Tool Time'' cohorts, and other characters. Here we have Allen solo, closer to the stand-up mode, musing ``about many things I want to say about being a man.'' His short chapters mainly consist of riffs on his past, his humor safely in the middle American mainstream. Born Timothy Allen Dick, he learned to cope with his unusual moniker through humor and thus segues into observations genitalistic. Allen resents women saying men's cars are linked to their penises: ``What's an extension of the vagina—a purse?'' His life was transformed, he writes, by a Playboy centerfold, and he does have some wise thoughts on objectification: ``If we could have had sex with our cars and boats, it would have been a lot easier. But we'd be a smaller species.'' What should men ``look for in a gal? The answer is easy: breath.'' Allen balances such cheap laughs with some insights, suggesting that women, like men, seek glitz in a partner but eventually settle for ``the family station wagon.'' There's more: marriage, sports, and, of course, tools, leading to his innovative analysis of the impact of tool belts on butt cracks. He ends with some heartfelt sentiments on fatherhood. Allen only briefly touches on the traumas that have fueled his psyche: the death of his father in a car wreck when Tim was 11 and a prison sentence for selling drugs. (The lack of privacy in prison supplies the book's title.) More memoir and less shtick might have been a better balance here. For loyal fans, who should still be plentiful. (First printing of 500,000; first serial to TV Guide and Playboy)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 1994

ISBN: 0-7868-6134-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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