A straightforwardly told chronicle that will appeal to readers with an interest in genealogy.

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LA VITA

CHRONICLES OF AN ITALIAN IMMIGRANT FAMILY IN A SMALL NEW ENGLAND TOWN

Novelist-playwright Arsenault (The Company Way, 2012, etc.), drawing on his own family’s background, describes an Italian wife’s reluctant immigration to New England in the 1920s and the drama that ensues.

This novel details the bittersweet immigrant experiences of a working-class Italian family in the rough-edged New Hampshire hamlet of Berlin, which include quite a multitude of sorrows. Assunta, a young, Italian wife and mother, is at the heart of the ensemble family saga, and she proves herself to be a born survivor—and nobody’s fool. It’s 1920 when she’s summoned to come to Ellis Island by her husband Camillo, who’s been forging a career in America for the last several years as a stonemason. But Camillo has also been having a long-standing affair with his French housekeeper, and Assunta soon realizes that she—and her children—don’t really know him very well at all. But, true to her vows, she takes on a motherly role in a land that’s not only full of opportunity, but also pain and disappointment. The first half covers Assunta’s initial months in America; the rest spans Prohibition, the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, the rise of Axis-Italian fascism, and America’s entry into World War II—yet the book never feels rushed or overcrowded. It also addresses how all of these historical events affect and buffet the town of Berlin in general and the heroine’s growing (yet mortal) family in particular. Arsenault resists the temptation to make the characters’ emotions melodramatic, and he also eschews sepia-toned sentimentality. Neither does he try to hammer this family saga into a statement about what America means. The results may lack poetry and vigorous histrionics, but the unhurried, direct prose does have an appealing, newspaperlike verisimilitude.

A straightforwardly told chronicle that will appeal to readers with an interest in genealogy. 

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5390-8226-2

Page Count: 428

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2017

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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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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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