Earnest, well-turned personal essays about screw-ups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick.

WE LEARN NOTHING

ESSAYS AND CARTOONS

Seriocomic tales of the author’s recovery from a host of bad habits, including drinking, false friends, bad relationships and politics.

New York Times contributor Kreider (Twilight of the Assholes, 2011, etc.) gained a cult following for drawing cartoons that were fiercely critical of the George W. Bush administration, but these essays reflect an urge to detox from things that used to make his blood run hot. For instance, he attends a Tea Party rally but takes pains not to get too riled up, and he recalls one alcoholic friend who routinely deceived him, but mostly frames him as gentle and charming. This kind of emotional poise doesn’t come naturally to Kreider, and the best essays chronicle his emotional and intellectual struggle to temper anger and heartbreak into (at least) stoicism. In the collection’s finest essay, “Escape From Pony Island,” he recalls how a friendship with a self-declared intellectual heavyweight went sour over “peak oil” theory, laying out his friend’s frustrating behavior but also identifying how his own intellectual shortcomings helped sink the relationship. Kreider sets up most of these essays as humor pieces. In “The Referendum,” he boggles at the idea of raising a child—or rather, having “a small rude incontinent person follow me around screaming and making me buy them stuff for the rest of my life”—and cartoons depicting him and his friends as rubber-faced and careworn support the knowing, self-critical tone. However, none of the essays are lighthearted shtick, and Kreider closes with three essays that are softer and more nuanced, addressing a friend undergoing a male-to-female sex change, reading Tristram Shandy with his ailing mother and finally meeting his two half sisters in his 40s. Though the author occasionally labors to balance compassion and laughs, his sincerity is always evident.

Earnest, well-turned personal essays about screw-ups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick. 

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9870-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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