Keenan’s self-deprecating humor and eagerness to learn set this apart from many travelogues.

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FOUR QUARTERS OF LIGHT

AN ALASKAN JOURNEY

Where does an Irishman go after reading The Call of the Wild? To the Arctic Circle, of course.

In 2003, Keenan (An Evil Cradling, 1993) traveled to Alaska armed with a Jack London epigraph (“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise”) and a head full of dreams. He planned to make a five-month journey with his wife and two sons; in Fairbanks, the family picked up an RV, which the author grandly named the Pequod, while his young son prosaically dubbed it “the car-house.” Keenan learned to manage a dog team—“Every time I took a spill my team barked and yelped as if they were a team of hyenas and my comic performance was to their liking”—and during a practice sleigh run was beguiled by the colors of an aurora borealis. But when the Pequod headed south toward the far reaches of Denali National Park, the land and its inhabitants got stranger. White proprietors refused to sell gas to the Keenans, and evangelical injunctions were plastered everywhere. After reaching Valdez, the author was warned about various religious and right-wing cults populating the area. Returning to Fairbanks, Keenan subsequently traveled the Alaskan Highway with a long-distance trucker and flew to attend a traditional Gwich’in gathering in Arctic Village, where he inadvertently set up camp in a graveyard. He eventually decided to abandon his pursuit of London’s Yukon footsteps, and the family lingered in Sitka, where “the summer was ending with glorious haste, and under the green canopy of the evergreen forest autumn colors were setting the hillsides ablaze.”

Keenan’s self-deprecating humor and eagerness to learn set this apart from many travelogues.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-7679-2325-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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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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