THE ASTONISHING WORLD

ESSAYS

Essayist, novelist, and travel writer, Harrison (Italian Days, 1989, etc.) here collects pieces drawn from such disparate magazines as Partisan Review and European Travel and Life. Together, they're meant to track her spiritual journeys through a world at once sacred and ordinary. But that asks too much from journalism and short fictions that are mostly just ordinary. Harrison's travel articles, though full of color and anecdote, develop no higher themes. Impressions of Morocco, Tuscany, Budapest, and Dubrovnik concentrate on bad odors and personal discomfort. Even in her profile of former gymnastics star Nadia Comaneci, Harrison seems obsessed with the athlete's rank smell. Portraits of Mario Cuomo and Gore Vidal succeed because the author allows these men to be themselves, witty and entertaining. On the set of The Godfather, Part III, Harrison discovers the remarkably obvious connections between Coppola's family and the Corleone saga. Equally unprofound is her essay on ``Women and Blacks and Bensonhurst,'' an attempt to contextualize the racial violence in her native Brooklyn, which includes the declaration of authority that ``My first lover was a black man.'' The two best articles return to the subject explored in Harrison's book-length study of Jehovah's Witnesses: cults. Here, she includes a chilling portrait of a dangerous messianic sect in northern Vermont. And a pilgrimage to a Yugoslavian shrine where the Virgin Mary purportedly appeared reveals the political agenda behind this recent Marian cult. The fictional pieces in this volume are the weakest: humorless bits about failed marriages, repressive families, and death. No Joan Didion, Harrison editorializes too much and edits too little.

Pub Date: July 14, 1992

ISBN: 0-395-59105-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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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