BUCKLEY: THE RIGHT WORD

A whimsical miscellany that is essentially what Vaughan (Buckley's editor at Doubleday), in his introduction, calls it, a "book on language," although it does not hold itself opprobrious, reprehensible, or peccant for wandering off topic. Letters, essays, interviews, speeches, and columns by National Review editor Buckley (Brothers No More, 1995, etc.), along with some letters written back to him, explore subjects as varied as the origin of Buckley's fictional spy Blackford Oakes, subjunctives, Norman Mailer, and the Roman Catholic Church's abandonment of the Latin mass. Of course, Buckle), does hold forth on fine points of English usage, but even he has his limit, as demonstrated when one correspondent, after taking exception to Buckley's usage of "momentarily," explores various "sleazy blunders in word usage." Buckley's response: "Aw, lay off, fellas." Such moments of humor, generously sprinkled throughout, do much to give the book its appeal. For example, Buckley experiments with translation software by using it to render two brief notes into French and then back into English, with predictably hilarious results. Of the interviews, there is a particularly memorable one with Jorge Luis Borges; discussing his admiration for English, the great writer notes that its Latin and Germanic roots give it "two registers." There is a group of reviews, including one of Henry James's travel writings, which Buckley adores (the prose is "so resplendent it will sweep you off your feet"), and one of the movie The Right Stuff, which, he says, lacks the "leavening humor" that Tom Wolfe's writing brought to the subject. In a chapter of obituaries, Buckley pays respect to a range of people, from Claire Boothe Luce to his own mother. An appendix of "Buckley lexicons" will attract only those burning to know how Buckley uses terms such as "matrix" or "pertinacity." In all, an assortment to entertain even some language lovers who find Buckley's politics less than amusing.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-45214-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1996

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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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