An indisputably terrific primer for all students of literature in English.

BREAK, BLOW, BURN

Cultural guru (Vamps and Tramps, 1994, etc.) and academic prophet (Humanities and Media Studies/Univ. of the Arts) Paglia offers a series of close, brief, and beautifully lucid readings of 43 poems, all written in English and most squarely within the canon.

Employing old-fashioned “explication of text” (a close line-by-line reading), the author aims to loosen these poems’ “primal energies”—which are subversive, sublime, re-creative, and accessible for all readers, she asserts. Paglia rejects the “spirit-killing” jargon of Post-Structuralism, which she blames for the demise of college literature departments, and returns here to her early New Criticism training by Milton Kessler and Harold Bloom. She makes respectable selections from early English poetry: two Shakespearean sonnets, “The Flea” and several exquisite Holy Sonnets by Donne, and Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” are all obvious choices, though three from George Herbert seems a bit excessive. Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Coleridge get one or two selections each to represent the Romantics. Paglia treats Whitman’s Song of Myself (parts 1 and 24) and three chilling poems by Dickinson in more welcome detail, reflecting her personal academic interests. Perhaps her most arresting choices are three Roethke poems, which pay gruesome attention to natural particulars. Jean Toomer’s “Georgia Dusk,” May Swenson’s “At East River,” Gary Snyder’s “Old Pond,” and Norman H. Russell’s “The Tornado” also display a strong sense of place within nature. Snyder aside, the Beats get short shrift, and Paglia receives minimum points for including multicultural writers and women, although Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” appears with an extended explication, and LA poet Wanda Coleman’s tormented, feminist “Wanda Why Aren’t You Dead” also makes the cut. But the fun of such a collection is disputing who gets in, who gets left out. Robert Lowell’s superbly sad “Man and Wife” stands in a class by itself, as do the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s troubadour-fused “Woodstock,” which conclude the collection and reinforce Paglia’s zeal for mass media—lest the reader forget.

An indisputably terrific primer for all students of literature in English.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-42084-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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