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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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