Elegant, interesting, even memorable, certainly more so than most magazine writing.

READ REVIEW

REPORTING

WRITINGS FROM THE NEW YORKER

New Yorker editor Remnick (King of the World, 1998, etc.) continues a happy tradition of self-anthologizing, gathering favorite pieces from the past two decades.

If there is a theme in these disparate pieces, it is to be discerned in what Remnick calls his “attempt to see someone up close, if only for a moment in time.” Thus two sterling profiles of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who may have kept himself at an Olympian remove in his gated-compound exile in Vermont, both out of Frostian disdain for his neighbors and of justifiable paranoia, given the hatred the Soviet regime felt for him. Philip Roth, another Remnick subject, keeps himself similarly inaccessible in the New York countryside, mostly so he can get his writing done; by Remnick’s account, the prolific Roth does little else, though “over the years, Roth has let himself be diverted at times from his work.” Don DeLillo won’t admit much diversion at all, unlike Václav Havel, who put a human face on Czechoslovakia’s postcommunist government by, among other things, puttering about in the halls of the presidential palace on a motor scooter. Remnick’s pieces often touch on thorny issues, as with his profile of an American-Russian couple who are shaking up the world of translation of Russian literary classics and his little study of British leader Tony Blair, who muses, just before the Iraq invasion, about getting rid of Robert Mugabe and “the Burmese lot” and concludes that such types should be removed from the stage when possible: “I don’t because I can’t, but when you can you should.” Remnick also profiles boxers, in the closing section on the sweet science, which is seemingly a passion of Remnick’s but a decided step down from the political and writerly topics he’s pursued thus far.

Elegant, interesting, even memorable, certainly more so than most magazine writing.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-307-26358-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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