THE GREAT ONE

THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF JACKIE GLEASON

Third life of Gleason in recent months and by far the best—as well as one of the best celebrity bios of recent memory, written with richness and brio by two-time Pulitzer-winner (for journalism) Henry (Visions of America, 1985), who's also a culture critic for Time. Deeply researched and taking nothing for granted, here's a book that gives us a Gleason whose warts match his ego, a man whose imagination was ever hog-wild on alcohol and, as with many active drinkers, whose better nature was often drowned by mean- spiritedness. Henry's Gleason, contrary to the legendary Gleason of thousands of interviews and news stories, is an utterly private, self-enclosed man fearful of revealing his deep-seated insecurities and blackly depressing childhood. He would always move back his mother Mae's death by three years when talking of it, having her die when he was a Dickensian waif of 16 rather than an earning entertainer of 19. His father had abandoned the family during the Depression, and his brother had died when Gleason was a child, leaving the future comedian overprotected by Mae. Despite his freewheeling, big-handed way with money and his many gifts to friends and strangers, Gleason apparently used money to bolster his power over CBS and did not think twice about cruelly uprooting some New York subordinates and replanting them in Florida so he could refine his golf game while producing a new version of his TV show. His famed musical genius and so-called conducting skills evidently were zilch, although his mood-music recordings made zillions. Typically, Henry points out, his buddyship with fellow farceur Art Carney was invented for the papers and did not exist. Though Gleason's extravagances were bottle dreams made real, he died of cancer and not from the drink, gluttony, and chain-smoking that should have killed him. A deep-delving bio for Gleason-lovers. (Twenty-four b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-41533-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

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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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