With poetic prose and vivid watercolors, Yang has created a rich portrait of life in China during the 1930s and '40s. Yang chronicles her Baba's (or Daddy's) boyhood and adolescence in 20 tales, each preceded by a watercolor. Baba was the fourth son in the eighth generation of the wealthy House of Yang, and his landscape teems with physical and spiritual dangers. He's threatened by torrential rains, ravenous wolves, red-bearded bandits, famines, demons, Japanese bombs, Russian troops, Communists, Nationalists, even an arranged marriage. When Baba is six, his family is forced out of their Manchurian homeland after the Japanese invasion. They move to China proper, then return five years later when Baba's father loses his job with a mining company. They live under the protective patronage of the family Patriarch until a bloody tug-of-war between followers of Mao and Chiang Kai- shek rends the family and country apart. Ancient legends, political upheavals, and religious ceremonies define Baba's youth. Storytellers teach him about gods and demons, prodigal sons, and the ghosts of the improperly buried. Their wisdom then plays out in his own life as Baba witnesses the goddess of Mercy protect his mother from marauding invaders; the troubled ways of one of his older brothers; and a 49-day funeral ceremony ensuring his great- great-grandfather safe passage to Heaven. Yang's prose feels ancient and foreign; for instance, she describes the effects of the first Japanese bombs: ``The glass windowpanes inhaled and exhaled, but the paper panes heaved a sigh and suddenly gave way, cracking like white porcelain.'' The tension between ancient rituals and modern reality elevates these tales from the merely beautiful into an astonishing personal vision, and a unique portrait emerges of a culture straddling thousands of years. Yang's work is like a lovely painted scroll swimming with wild souls, beasts, birds, flowers, day and night sky, tragedy, and hope.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-100063-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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.


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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