Steinbach, a columnist and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun and 1985 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, presents in her first book an open, honest, charming, and witty collection of personal essays. Focusing on the familiar, Steinbach relates private thoughts and remembrances of people who influenced her, the loss of loved ones, childhood follies and fantasies, the ever-present continuing lessons from her deceased mother and grandmother, her single motherhood and relationship with two grown sons, romance, fashion, growing up, and parenthood. These essays reveal the influence of time and experience on memory, imagination, and reflection. Steinbach offers an inspirational book that will appeal primarily to women over 30 who will identify with the type of experiences and memories she describes. Recommended for public libraries and comprehensive women's studies collections.Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Journalist Steinbach is a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the award was given for feature articles written for the Baltimore Sun, not for this motley assortment of reflections on "the small events that make up a life."
In the footsteps of other essayists and columnistsErma Bombeck and Steinbach's hero E.B. White among themSteinbach digs for the universal in the personal, and from time to time, she strikes pay dirt. Among her favorite, and more successful, subjects are her sons, her cats (in particular the charismatic Max), and her late mother. Tired and dated are observations on Gloria Steinem, Martha Stewart, and dieting. The essays are corraled into the usual categories, including relationships, raising children, childhood memories, work and growing older, with each section introduced by a brief commentary. The Miss Dennis of the title was the author's ninth-grade creative-writing teacher, who loved Emily Dickinson and directed her students to "pay attention" and to "find [a] unique voice." Steinbach clearly learned how to pay attentionshe is, after all, an award-winning reporterbut she is still tuning her rather self- conscious voice. Nevertheless, there are some memorable turns of phrase here. Regarding wishing for the "world on a string" vs. small satisfactions like an uninterrupted supper hour, she says: "Small hopes . . . are a lot like dogs: They tend to come when they're called." There are also tender memories of her mother in the garden and her father on vacation. Steinbach's eye for eloquent detail is conveyed in only a few pieces here, among them "Pioneer Women."
Overall, Miss Dennis would not be happy. Resurrected from the newspaper morgue, these pieces tend to lose whatever punch they may have initially had.