OVER THE HILLS

A MIDLIFE ESCAPE ACROSS AMERICA BY BICYCLE

Astride his trusty Trek 520, Los Angeles Times correspondent Lamb (Stolen Season, 1991, etc.) pedals his way from the Potomac to the Pacific in this entertaining 3,145-mile ramble, which is more cycling manifesto than travelogue. Middle age was squatting like a fat toad on Lamb's shoulders. Feeling restless, feeling all of his 55 years, knowing that he ``could be quite fulfilled wandering aimlessly forever,'' he decided to undertake a transcontinental journey, via bicycle, without timetables and sticking to back roads. He is a worthy narrator, stopping to smell the roses and sketch for his readers the towns and characters he met en route, witnessing in many places the demise of Main Street, listening in the quiet of the night ``to the labored breathing of Small Town, America.'' But this is no Blue Highways, for as much as Lamb enjoys the open road, he is even more fascinated with cycling, its history, and what great good sense it makes in terms of simple pleasure and its benign nature. Peppered throughout the book are nuggets of cycling lore, from a sketch of a bicycle found in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci, through the penny-farthing era, to the emergence of the mountain bike. With his light journalist's touch, he makes fair reading out of the biker's concerns: picking the good route, the torment of head winds, the terrors prompted by vicious dogs, the unfathomable ugliness showered on cyclers (ignoramuses throw bottles at him, run him off the road, shout profanities, and threaten him), all balanced by the ecstasy of smooth macadam and a downhill slope; on this trip, a wide shoulder to the road was more tantalizing than even the fairest prospect. A delightful tribute to romancing the road on a bike, and unintentionally inspirational: Lamb smokes, has high cholesterol, and chows down on fast foods. Criminy, if he could do it . . .

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8129-2579-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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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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