A rollicking ride in company with a man who has performed an enormously important public service.

READ REVIEW

OUTWITTING HISTORY

HOW ONE MAN RESCUED A MILLION BOOKS AND SAVED A CIVILIZATION

Engaging first-person account of how some committed young people rescued from history’s dustbin more than a million books published in Yiddish.

In prose that sometimes lurches and jolts along like the overloaded rental trucks that the author and his merry band used to collect books, Lansky unfolds a tale of rare emotion and devotion. He was only 23, in 1980, when he made the decision to dedicate himself to the cause of saving books in Yiddish. He had begun studying the language while at Hampshire College and was shocked to discover that many libraries were discarding Yiddish works by the thousands because so few circulated. His account of his rescue efforts takes the form of an adventure story, related with a breathless and appealing Andy Hardy earnestness. The author and his companions pluck books from Dumpsters in the rain, from closing libraries, from damp garages and basements, from dour doubters, from aging Jews who surrender them like favorite children—with flowing tears, many tales, and much food. They make harrowing missions to Russia and Cuba. But it all pays off: Lanksy now oversees a huge enterprise comprising a state-of-the-art facility, the National Yiddish Book Center, and a membership of some 35,000 supporters. He is digitizing the volumes, virtually all of which were printed on paper whose acid content assures disintegration. The purpose of the Book Center is not to hoard but to distribute the volumes. It maintains a core collection but considers putting books into the hands of readers among its chief purposes, in addition to making sure key titles are in libraries where scholars can consult them. Lansky also chronicles the history of Yiddish, his fundraising efforts (considerably accelerated by a 1989 MacArthur genius grant), and his countless public appearances (including a funny episode at a Catskills resort).

A rollicking ride in company with a man who has performed an enormously important public service.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-56512-429-4

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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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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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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