LAUGHING SCREAMING

MODERN HOLLYWOOD HORROR AND COMEDY

A serious, jargon-laden, and stubbornly appreciative examination of movies that, according to Paul (Film/Univ. of Michigan), ``embraced the lowest common denominator as an aesthetic principle.'' Citing everyone from Freud to Bill Murray, and with research ranging from Oedipus to Dada to fairy tales, Paul finds not only parallels but the very wellspring of the horror film genre in the Roman circus and Elizabethan drama. Comedies such as Animal House and Bachelor Party, he claims, have roots in the Greek theater and in the later Feast of Fools and Midsummer Eve festivals. They may have ``repulsed critics,'' but gross-out movies represent ``something other than proof of America's cultural decadence.'' Paul credits the makers of these films with being ``creative in the desire to break down inhibitions, to move away from the repression of our traditional society.'' Thus Porky's and Animal House, noted for raunchy, slobbering male sexuality, become ``explorations of the variety of penile expression.'' Slasher films such as the Friday the 13th and Halloween series comprise, in Paul's view, ``art that defines itself as oppositional to the dominant power structure,'' not as films that exploit violence and degradation. There is groundbreaking work here, particularly in tying together the historical, theoretical, and cultural perspectives underpinning the attraction of these genres. But he actually cites the women's movement (as well as other social movements) as a beneficiary of the dashing of sexual and other taboos by these films, overlooking their frequent portrayal of the victimization of women. Ultimately, this is a rationalization and justification—in dense, scholarly prose—of viciousness and sophomoric titillation in film.

Pub Date: May 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-231-08464-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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