A vivid, honest portrait of an imperfect but intrepid mid-20th-century American family.

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JUNGLE BABY

A MEMOIR OF AMBITION, ABANDONMENT AND LOVE

Debut author Albert recalls her brief time in Nigeria as the only child of a father who was lured to British colonial Africa and a mother who reluctantly went along for the ride.

Like so many tales of misadventure, this one begins at the end; it’s a stock technique, but it works for this sentimental, thoughtful memoir. In March 1953, after spending the night in a Kano, Nigeria, jail, Albert’s father secured his release despite his debtor’s wishes—just in time to get himself, his wife, Josie, and their 10-year-old daughter (the author) on the first flight to London. Two years before, Albert’s father, disillusioned by his career in law, decided to uproot the family from their cozy existence in the neighborhood of Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, and become an exporter of lead ore. From the outset, Albert deftly illustrates her portrait of her father as a restless, self-serving man who was convinced that exporting ore from Nigeria would fulfill his greatest desire: to become a wealthy man. On the way to Africa, Albert’s parents casually dumped her off at an English boarding school, not unlike the one that George Orwell wrote about in his autobiographical essay, “Such, Such Were the Joys.” Albert would hear little from her parents, and it wasn’t until five months later that they brought her to Nigeria. The author reconstructs the family’s remaining year and a half there, most of it spent in the city of Jos, using letters between her mother and aunt, and her father and uncle. Each one is rich with details of the family’s daily life in the city; Albert’s father’s calamitous trade and mining negotiations with European-weary village chiefs; and both parents’ emotional struggles with expatriate existence and ultimate financial failure. Yet Albert also infuses the narrative with a deep love and admiration for her parents, which results in deliciously complex portraits. The book could have done without a handful of vague references to “Africans” instead of “Nigerians,” but for the most part, Albert remains vigilant regarding the fraught social atmosphere of colonial Africa.

A vivid, honest portrait of an imperfect but intrepid mid-20th-century American family.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5006-9476-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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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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