Politically savvy and unafraid to be controversial (but not unnecessarily). An eye-opener for students of geopolitics and a...

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I WOULDN’T START FROM HERE

THE 21ST CENTURY AND WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG

A helter-skelter travelogue in which London-based journalist Mueller endures blasts of rhetoric from the likes of Bono, various nationalists and pundits, as well as blasts of bombs and bad vibes in all corners of the world.

The title is ironic, referring to a pat Irish reply to lost tourists seeking their way from point A to point B. Mueller, a specialist in point Zs, honors no beaten paths, and though he’s not exactly lost most of the time, he’s not found either. This rollicking innocent-abroad tour of the world opens with a grim meditation on comparative cabbing that will make a cultural relativist wince, but that will please fans of P.J. O’Rourke: “Georgians are the worst drivers in the world, combining the mindless aggression of Lebanese, the terrifying fatalism of Pakistanis, the adolescent machismo of Italians, and the technical competence of baboons.” Ouch. Things are just as bad off the road in various other third-world countries, which is, Mueller observes, why so many people are clamoring to migrate to places such as Sweden and Canada, while so few Swedes and Canadians are clamoring to migrate to Myanmar or Lesotho. Mueller turns up bright spots in such unexpected milieus as Albania and Abkhazia, and he finds high points of many kinds along his travels, with sympathies plainly expressed—if China wants Taiwan, he ventures, then give it the island, after all the Taiwanese migrate to the West. Yet his travels are mostly designed, it seems, to show how the wrong roads taken have led to the regimes in Iraq and Tripoli—and, for that matter, Washington, D.C.—the bloodshed that plagues the globe and the various lunacies that keep people on a Hobbesian rather than Lockean schedule.

Politically savvy and unafraid to be controversial (but not unnecessarily). An eye-opener for students of geopolitics and a useful primer for would-be globetrotters.

Pub Date: March 25, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59376-218-6

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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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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