NOTES FROM A BATTERED GRAND

A MEMOIR

Pianist/writer Asher (Blood Summer, 1977, etc.) reviews his career as a musician. Excerpts have appeared in Paris Review, Harper's, etc., and in the author's The Electric Cotillion (1970). Asher gives a smoke-filled memoir of his early days as a saloon pianist while simultaneously charting the ups and downs of jazz and swing during the past five decades. He began as a classical pianist in red-brick Worcester, Mass., but in his mid- teens was seduced by jazz virtuoso Jackie Byard into a lifelong existence in cafes, joints, buckets of blood, holes-in-the-wall, cathouses, and garbage dumps. His first jobs were while still in high school and included playing for completely nude hootch dancers—an afternoon stag show at the Good Ship Madam Zucchini. His first big gig was with the Hal Harganian band at the Foxes and Hounds, an antediluvian 500-seat barn of a show-club, which burned to the ground, suspiciously. Asher captures these old clubs marvelously: ``a whiff from the open door of a seedy south-of- Market barroom in San Francisco, peering through the slats of a darkened club in the bright afternoon, can summon full-blown, in all their squalor and glory, Dominic's Cafe, Blue Marlin, Tiny's Carousel, Good Ship Madam Zucchini, Foxes and Hounds....'' Asher regretted not being black while playing in Boston's Back Bay venue or during his first all-black after-hours jam session. He joined the hard-drinking Alvie Drake band out of Providence, later moved to the hungry i bar-lounge in San Francisco, where he watched Woody Allen bomb on the comedian's opening night but recover to ham it up with teenager Barbra Streisand, who kept the jam-packed house ``reverberating.'' Beguiling.

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-15-167281-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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