TELELITERACY

TAKING TELEVISION SERIOUSLY

A ringing defense of TV as a forum for art, information, and education, and as a candidate in the more-cultured-than-thou sweepstakes. Bianculli is a TV critic for The New York Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and NPR. The quiz that launches the book, comparing knowledge of the classics with knowledge of TV programs, will leave many readers feeling sheepish. Isn't it embarrassing to know who shot J.R. and not know who killed Achilles? And that, of course, is Bianculli's point. Since the early 50's and the advent of I Love Lucy, he contends, TV has become America's cultural reference point, a common language—teleliteracy—that often bridges class and ethnic barriers. Citing Plato, who trashed poetry as a diversion ``not to be taken seriously,'' Bianculli likens TV to other media—music, the novel, radio, film—once scorned because they appealed to the masses. But programs like Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective, CNN's coverage of the Gulf War, PBS's The Civil War, children's programs like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and even sitcoms like Taxi and Cheers are offered in evidence that TV can broaden its audience's view of the world and sharpen its critical skills. Shared experiences like TV's coverage of JFK's assassination and of the Challenger disaster create a national memory, Bianculli says, adding that making TV the scapegoat for poorly educated children avoids looking at the true root causes, like underfunding. And there's much more, both positive and not, in this carefully researched, brightly written book. Admitting that TV has yet to reach its potential, Bianculli finds enough meat in current programming to relieve the guilt of all of us who watch the not-so-boob tube more than we care to admit. (Ten b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: June 26, 1992

ISBN: 0-8264-0535-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Continuum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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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