An informative, sometimes-tender memoir of midcentury small-town Americana.

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MISTAKEN FOR A KING

SKETCHES OF A SMALL-TOWN BOYHOOD

Kellams (A Coach’s Life, 2007) shares fond recollections of a childhood spent in the small town of Marion, Iowa.

In a series of chapter-length vignettes, Kellams brings readers back to the 1940s and early ’50s, recalling a time when local papers and radios were the main sources of news, when young boys played cowboys and Indians with prized toy guns (cap guns, the author says, were the best) and when kids ran off to local swimming holes in the summertime. The elder of two sons born to Stanley and Margaret Kellams, the author came into the world in 1936, during the waning years of the Great Depression. His parents were educated and industrious, and they reflected a Midwestern frugality that was only enhanced by the economic turmoil of their times. By his own account, the author was a sensitive, insecure child, easily brought to tears, but he still depicts his childhood as a happy one. Many stories involve his love of and involvement in sports, including baseball, basketball, and swimming; his father is shown to be especially supportive of all these endeavors. In a disciplined narrative sprinkled with dry wit, Kellams relates his experiences factually rather than emotionally. The crisp prose usually maintains a reporter’s detachment (his parents, for instance, are frequently called Stanley and Margaret instead of Mom and Dad), but there are a few revelatory moments that will give readers a glimpse into the passions of the child. Here, for example, he speaks of working as a newspaper delivery boy for the Cedar Rapids Gazette when he was about 11 years old: “The smell of Fred Ross’s cigar…was the dominant odor, but it mixed with the bitter smell of wet ink, the woody scent of damp paper, and the mingled stench that rose from the jumble of our two dozen bodies….It was part of the romance of journalism.” Kellams not only delivered the Gazette, he read it every day, foreshadowing his eventual move east to obtain a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He would never again live in Iowa, but in this book, he offers effective reminders of the time he spent there. 

An informative, sometimes-tender memoir of midcentury small-town Americana.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-72976-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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