An engaging, perceptive companion for all writers.



A guide for academic writers that is also relevant to anyone who cares about fine prose.

Novelist, essayist, and literary scholar Kumar (English/Vassar Univ.; Immigrant, Montana, 2018, etc.) offers a handbook on style and form that is simultaneously elegant and practical. Admiring “fresh, provocative, unpredictable texts,” the author is dismayed by what Toni Morrison called “the proud but calcified language of the academy.” As fiction writer David Means observed, “so much academic writing seems sealed up and hermetic and uninspired, shorn away from a love of subject.” Academic writers, Kumar asserts, work in a “culture of oppression,” in which they strive to fit into “the existing codes”—scholarly jargon—of their field in order to publish the articles and books that will earn them tenure. As a graduate student, he admits that he, too, tried mightily to emulate his teachers “and wrote sentences whose texture was inevitably thicker than cement.” Dissatisfied with the quality of his work, he despaired of ever attracting readers: “Couldn’t our analyses become more exuberant, imaginative, and even playful?” Kumar agrees with other writing guides—Strunk and White’s for one—that advocate clarity and conciseness, but he knows that the admonition to “find your voice” can be confusing. “Perhaps specificity is what brings us closer to the idea of voice, which I think is another word for distinctiveness.” Voice, in any case, “depends on the question you are asking” and the “zones of experience” from which a writer is drawing. Kumar appends his slim manual with 10 habits he recommends to his students, including setting a daily goal of at least 150 words, turning off the internet, making sure to exercise, keeping a bookshelf of several volumes to turn to as guides in “the critical matter of method or style,” and finishing one project before taking up another. He shares advice about craft from many writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, all of whom strive to “bring delight.” In that aim, Kumar amply succeeds.

An engaging, perceptive companion for all writers.

Pub Date: March 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4780-0627-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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