JUST CURIOUS

ESSAYS

Atlantic Monthly managing editor Murphy gathers some three dozen of his essays, all but one written for the magazine and all displaying his considerable journalistic talents. As befits his varied rÇsumÇ (he is author of the text for the ``Prince Valiant'' comic strip and co-author of Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage, not reviewed), Murphy offers a kaleidoscopic variety of subject matter. Here are some thoughts about the practice of modern medical science, there a few comments about the art of government, here a consideration of the lore of eternal life, there some notions about the technology of sentencing criminals (which ``culminates in the computation of what might be thought of as Adjusted Gross Behavior. The sentencing table then reveals What You Owe''). Clearly the author draws much inspiration from his carefully eclectic reading of everything from the Commerce Business Daily Fund Raising Management, and How To Avoid, Prepare For, and Survive Being Taken Hostage (subject self-evident). But he's not always in the reading chair. Like Ernie Pyle or Joe Mitchell before him, Murphy often travels to garner his stylish aperáus. A lengthy piece on how a few of the Pope's men in far- flung posts are laboring to produce definitive editions of the works of St. Thomas is reported from Europe. Another observes the activities at a convention of ventriloquists—which is attended by a surprising number of fundamentalist Christians. An index (surely not a usual feature in a collection of essays) ranges from such entries as ``anthroponomastics, the study of human names'' to ``weddings, disjunction between participants and professionals at.'' Murphy's classy writing and eye for mundane curiosities keeps the art of the essay alive as a stimulant to the senses as well as the intellect.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1995

ISBN: 0-395-70099-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1994

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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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