Polokoff writes well, and for that—and his engaging humanity—the collection is to be recommended.

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Mother Merrill is Dead

AND OTHER THINGS I WITNESSED BUT NEVER SAW COMING

There is something for everyone in this collection of memoir snapshots. Heck, there is even a novella for good measure.

Debut memoirist Polokoff has lived a full life that’s not over yet. The man appears to have enormous energy even now in his late 80s. After starting out as an academic economist, he spent a long and successful career with the investment giant Merrill Lynch and also shouldered—graciously, happily—a ton of civic responsibilities in Buffalo, where he lived while working at the investment company (Florida seems to have been a second residence). He married twice and had three successful children. The first marriage ended in an amicable divorce; his second wife, Gina, continues to be his muse. He was a Navy lieutenant who saw action on a Landing Ship Tank in the Pacific theater in World War II. He is a pretty fair jazz pianist and a lifelong golfer. Topics covered, usually with four or five entries apiece, include his early life, his college days at Duke, his travels, his wartime experiences, his years and his friends at Merrill Lynch, and sections that are harder to describe, whimsical catchalls. But some section titles do give us their flavors: “Turning Points,” “Musings,” “Fascinating People,” and so forth. The novella is earnest, but fiction is not the man’s long suit: “Alex and Max” strikes one as a male sexual fantasy dressed as a morality tale. A memoir is only as engaging as its memoirist, and it’s almost impossible not to like Ed Polokoff. (How can you not like a man who dedicates his book to “Gloria and Gina, the two wives in my life”?) Polokoff is a shrewd judge of character, but sometimes his affection for others may skew his perspective. He is an enormously successful man who came from humble beginnings, but one never (with apologies to Chevy Chase) gets the sense that “I’m Ed Polokoff and you’re not.” Instead, he comes across as a real mensch who is grateful for the good life he has had. Personal photos are included: black and white and grainy, but perhaps that adds to their charm.

Polokoff writes well, and for that—and his engaging humanity—the collection is to be recommended.

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0533165506

Page Count: 314

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 13, 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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