Writing with an expert practitioner’s appreciation for music, Bragg tells the story of British rock-’n’-roll’s forerunner...

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ROOTS, RADICALS AND ROCKERS

HOW SKIFFLE CHANGED THE WORLD

Superb account, by British folk-punker Bragg (A Lover Sings: Selected Lyrics, 2016, etc.), of the politically aware, working-class skiffle craze of the 1950s.

The so-called British Invasion of the 1960s was a repurposing of American music, a mix of blues, jazz, and country, that young people on the other side of the pond were hearing over American Armed Forces Radio and on records brought by Yankee ships. Yet there was a forgotten intermediary: skiffle. Born of old-school British takes on jazz, it added a rebellious racket, with a strong rhythm section built on bass, drums, and often washboard; throw thunderous guitars into the mix in the place of trombones and clarinets, and you have a homegrown recasting of an alien art form, one populated by unsung heroes and forgotten moments. Bragg finds skiffle on what he calls the “dead ground of British pop culture,” and he aims to sing of those heroes and to recall their glories—and glories they were, marking a movement that anticipated punk in its insistence on DIY performances hampered largely by a lack of outlets for recorded music. The author traces skiffle to the early ’50s, giving pride of place to Lonnie Donegan, a player whose recording of the old Lead Belly song “Rock Island Line”—covered at about the same time by Elvis Presley in the U.S.—was a kind of declaration of skiffle’s intent. It took some time for the moment to get going; as Bragg writes, “David Whitfield and Mantovani could sleep soundly in their beds,” at least for a little while, until skiffle overwhelmed their easy-listening ways. But when it did, there was little to stop the likes of Alexis Korner and the Ghouls from raising a ruckus—and after them not just the Beatles, famously founded on skiffle, but also the Rolling Stones, whose founders cut their teeth on the skiffle sound.

Writing with an expert practitioner’s appreciation for music, Bragg tells the story of British rock-’n’-roll’s forerunner with verve and great intelligence.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-571-32774-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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