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SUPPOSE A SENTENCE

A learned, spirited foray into what makes a sentence tick.

Dillon follows up on his last book about essays with one on the briefer, “slippery sentence.”

These chronologically arranged picks from the 17th century to today are the “few that shine more brightly and for the moment compose a pattern.” The author plumbs biography, autobiography, and history to add context and background, with particular attention to each author’s literary style. Dillon follows a road taken earlier by the French critic Roland Barthes, the “patron saint of my sentences,” explicating the pleasure of writing about writing and close reading, puzzling over the “Two colons, two sets of parentheses?” in Barthes’ sentence. The title of the book is inspired by a sentence in Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons that uses the word “suppose” nine times. Dillon’s intriguing inquiry begins with the briefest of sentences, from Hamlet, as the prince dies: “O, o, o, o.”—“nothing more or less than the vocal expression, precisely, of silence.” Most of them are much longer. Dillon also includes Charlotte Brontë’s “The drug wrought,” from Villette. Taken from a sermon shortly before his death, John Donne’s sentence is a “paratactic heap of language” while Thomas de Quincey’s “demands patience; it is like waiting for a photograph to develop.” Elizabeth Bowen’s employs a “style by turns exact, easeful and bristling.” James Baldwin’s sentence, by way of Norman Mailer, has Dillon pondering over Baldwin’s use of “ofay.” Annie Dillard’s sentence about an eclipse, “with its central colon, feels balanced but loose, centrifugal and strange.” In Korean American artist and writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s sentence, Dillon hears echoes of Samuel Beckett, and an imperfect translation of Swiss author Fleur Jaeggy’s sentence gives Dillon fits. Near the end, Dillon writes about how he tried to take notes on Anne Carson’s sentence but only came up with an “ambiguous doodle.”

A learned, spirited foray into what makes a sentence tick.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68137-524-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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CINEMA SPECULATION

A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.

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The acclaimed director displays his talents as a film critic.

Tarantino’s collection of essays about the important movies of his formative years is packed with everything needed for a powerful review: facts about the work, context about the creative decisions, and whether or not it was successful. The Oscar-winning director of classic films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs offers plenty of attitude with his thoughts on movies ranging from Animal House to Bullitt to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Big Chill. Whether you agree with his assessments or not, he provides the original reporting and insights only a veteran director would notice, and his engaging style makes it impossible to leave an essay without learning something. The concepts he smashes together in two sentences about Taxi Driver would take a semester of film theory class to unpack. Taxi Driver isn’t a “paraphrased remake” of The Searchers like Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? is a paraphrased remake of Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or De Palma’s Dressed To Kill is a paraphrased remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But it’s about as close as you can get to a paraphrased remake without actually being one. Robert De Niro’s taxi driving protagonist Travis Bickle is John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. Like any good critic, Tarantino reveals bits of himself as he discusses the films that are important to him, recalling where he was when he first saw them and what the crowd was like. Perhaps not surprisingly, the author was raised by movie-loving parents who took him along to watch whatever they were watching, even if it included violent or sexual imagery. At the age of 8, he had seen the very adult MASH three times. Suddenly the dark humor of Kill Bill makes much more sense. With this collection, Tarantino offers well-researched love letters to his favorite movies of one of Hollywood’s most ambitious eras.

A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311258-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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