An engaging life story, as told through a whimsical collection of fatherly musings.

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Letters to His Children from an Uncommon Attorney

A MEMOIR

In this debut memoir, a father reminisces about notable people and places in his eventful life.

The dying art of letter writing isn’t lost on Roberts, a British-born attorney who practiced law in Canada. His charmingly unconventional memoir takes the form of 83 “letters” to his four children, but this description hardly does them justice. Each is an artfully composed essay that not only reveals much about the author himself, but also often contains a pearl of worldly wisdom. Roberts begins with a series of missives about growing up in bomb-scarred England during World War II. In “A Child’s History of the Battle of Britain,” he describes how his ears were always alert for incoming aircraft—both the “powerful, friendly, protective sound” of the British Spitfire and the “deadly drone” of German warplanes. Although the author loosely groups the letters by subject, he also playfully hops from decade to decade and continent to continent. He writes of sipping café au lait in Paris in the1950s, meeting a native Haidu on the Queen Charlotte Islands in the ’70s and watching birds in Hong Kong in the ’80s. Perhaps the most captivating letters describe the author’s clients when he was a defense attorney in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Eddie Silver,” for example, was a small-time hustler who figured out an ingenious way to scam coins from public pay phones; “Real Carrier” was a schizophrenic French Canadian who decapitated a man and might have killed Roberts, too, if some cautious jailers hadn’t prevented the lawyer from entering his cell. Overall, the book is a pleasure to read thanks to the author’s genial prose and lively wit. Roberts is a gifted storyteller with an appreciation for eccentric personalities and life’s ironies. The book’s disjointed format, however, makes it difficult to assemble a complete profile of the author, as basic autobiographical data are scattered throughout. Roberts explains, somewhat apologetically, that he’s cursed with a “magpie mind” that’s constantly roving and easily tempted to stray. This trait may have irritated his schoolteachers, but here it makes for a meandering but thoroughly delightful memoir.

An engaging life story, as told through a whimsical collection of fatherly musings.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1460233399

Page Count: 312

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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