THE PUSHCART PRIZE XXII

This year's Pushcart anthology of small-press literature is the biggest yet—which means more gems, and yet more dross surrounding them. This year's crop of short stories mostly consists of straightforward depictions of working-class life and death. In this vein, the stand-out is Ron Carlson's ``Oxygen,'' a vivid account of a late-'60s summer spent delivering oxygen to invalids in Arizona. Meanwhile, Pamela Painter's short study ``The Kiss'' addresses a question on many minds lately: What is it like to kiss someone wearing a dumbbell-shaped rod through his pierced tongue? The Pushcart's forte remains literary criticism and memoir. This year features strong contributions from Charles Baxter on the relation between poetry and prose, Lewis Hyde on the place of the aleatory in art, Charles Simic on his days as an unknown poet in New York, and Gretchen Legler on her passion for hunting. Once again the selection of poetry is fairly uneven. A contribution from Robert Pinsky finds the US poet laureate at his most pedantic, while selections like Julia Vinograd's ``For the Young Men Who Died of AIDS'' (which asks, ``How can people go on buying toothpaste / and planning their summer vacations?'') court bathos. A shorter, more surreal poem succeeds, however: David Hayward's speech in the voice of a combative minor-league baseball mascot, ``Davy Cricket.'' Similarly surreal and successful prose efforts include Susan Daitch's dreamlike ``Killer Whales'' and Tomas Filer's ``Civilization,'' an intriguing tale of how the borders between life and movies blurred in the California of a lifetime ago. The baseball-team mascot Davy Cricket from Heyward's poem provides a kind of emblem for the Pushcart. If the anthology, like the blue-foam-suited Davy, can appear bloated and overly loyal to the performers it celebrates, to complain would be churlish. For the Pushcart's cheerleading calls our attention to some wonderful literature, and, what's more, to the wonderful variety that redeems the existence of more mediocre work.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-888889-01-2

Page Count: 650

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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