REMEMBERING ANNA AKHMATOVA

Moving, poetry-soaked memoirs by poet Nayman of his time with Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (A.A.), whom he met in 1959 when he was 23. He later became her secretary. In 1911, A.A. was a founding member of the Poets Guild, from which grew the Acmeists. Until 1922, as we discover, she managed to publish five books, but in 1921 ex-husband N.S. Gumilyov was executed and a year later A.A. was banned from publishing. Her son was arrested three times, sentenced to death (commuted), then exiled, all to keep her silent. A.A. turned to translation, stopped publishing poetry until her ban was lifted in 1940. Later, she was expelled from the Soviet Writers' Union for writing ``ideologically harmful'' private emotions ``totally alien to Soviet literature,'' and her latest book of poetry was destroyed in the presses. To help save her son's life, she unwillingly wrote a cycle of banal poems in praise of Stalin. When Nayman went to A.A.'s house in Leningrad, he met a quiet woman whose ``appearance, words, and gestures all expressed the fact that she was doomed, utterly...I left, stunned by the fact that I had spent an hour in the presence of a person with whom I had no ideas in common...but with whom no one on earth could have anything in common.'' Nayman captures A.A.'s great but reserved spirit largely by repeating her answers to literary questions and responses to poems sent or read to her. By this time, she had a ``phonograph record'' of about three stock replies that sounded thoughtful but said nothing—in her day poets were killed for their poetry. A.A.'s terse poetry is poorly served by Walter Arndt's flowing translations herein, but A.A. comes off majestically anyway. (Eight pages of b&w illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1991

ISBN: 0-8050-1408-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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