Tasty literary assessments served with a dollop of gossip.

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SALLIES, ROMPS, PORTRAITS, AND SEND-OFFS

SELECTED PROSE, 2000-2016

A noted poet opines on other writers.

In this collection, award-winning poet Kleinzahler (The Hotel Oneira, 2013, etc.) gathers reviews, essays, and remembrances. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and a few of these biting and sharp sallies take their subjects and reputations to task. He admires Robert Lowell’s “enormous gift,” but his prestige is “much diminished” and his influence “has been baneful.” E.e. cummings is the “sort of poet one loves at the age of seventeen and finds unbearably mawkish and vacuous as an adult.” Richard Brautigan had a “lightness of touch [and] gorgeous timing," but “he wasn’t really very good….[I]t is pretty thin stuff: precious, self-indulgent fluff.” Kleinzahler can zero in on a work or writer like an eagle diving after its prey and snatch. The “clotted syntax” of John Berryman’s “much admired and little read” Homage to Mistress Bradstreet won’t let the piece breathe: “One feels the strain in its assemblage.” Kleinzahler likes to rescue lesser-known writers from obscurity. Lucia Berlin’s stories are of “a very high order and not always easy to take,” and the author also resuscitates poets Christopher Middleton, Roy Fisher, and Lorine Niedecke, “one of the most important and original poets of this past century. Kleinzahler much admires the poet Louis Zukofsky, a fine translator and author of the puzzling book-long poem “A,” which is “an unholy mess, an extraordinarily complex, often brilliant and heroic mess, but a mess.” There are affectionate portraits of two poets who influenced the author greatly: Thom Gunn, “one of the most important poets in the English language,” and the “shockingly neglected” Basil Bunting. Others discussed include Allen Ginsberg, James Schuyler, Leonard Michaels, and James Merrill. Kleinzahler also tosses in some personal pieces about music (and having too many CDs) and two hometowns, San Francisco and Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Tasty literary assessments served with a dollop of gossip.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-28209-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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