THE STORY BEGINS

ESSAYS ON LITERATURE

Therapy in the erotics of reading from one of Israel’s most cosmopolitan novelists and essayists. When Oz (Panther in the Basement, 1997, etc.) was in the seventh grade, a very businesslike nurse appeared to tell him and his school chums all about the procedures, complexities, and especially the dangers of sex. Her manner was grave, and, he recalls, she made no mention of pleasure. He draws a literary parallel: “And this is precisely what some of the literati are doing to us: they analyze everything ad nauseam, techniques, motifs, oxymorons and metonyms, allegory and connotation . . . Only the pleasure of reading do they castrate—just a bit’so it doesn’t get in the way.” Oz wants to return us to the eros of reading. To achieve his aim, he offers exemplary discussions of ten different novels and stories, including works by Theodor Fontane, Nikolai Gogol, Raymond Carver, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez, S.Y. Agnon, and others. He takes the problem of narrative beginnings as a focusing device and suggests that, at the beginning of any tale, a sort of contract is established between writer and reader. No doubt, this is more or less true, but he makes no particularly compelling case for it. Still, the idea works effectively as a heuristic device, allowing him to do what he does best: demonstrate the pleasure of reading, with vivid, brief explorations of all different sorts of beginnings. Oz’s sensitive readings show a way of taking fiction seriously as pleasure and then heightening that pleasure by exploring the different ways in which writers achieve meaning. Translator Bar-Tura renders Oz’s prose in powerful, simple, and evocative English. Oz writes with wonderful force of conviction in this urbane set of essays, and his own pleasure in both reading and writing is contagious.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-100297-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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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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