EMBLEMS OF MIND

THE INNER LIFE OF MUSIC AND MATHEMATICS

A thoughtful exploration of the ``deep structure'' similarities between the intellectual graces of music and mathematics. Now chief music critic for the New York Times, Rothstein was trained as a mathematician. He takes as his premise here a congruence between the two fields—music and mathematics—extending far beyond the notion that the conventional western system of tonality derives from certain physical laws that can be expressed in mathematical ratios. Pursuing his intuition that the underlying substance of both disciplines might cast a single unified shadow on the wall of Plato's cave, Rothstein enters into an extended discussion of specific mathematical and musical problems. His examples are sufficiently sophisticated to interest the intellectually adventurous—and to frighten away the casual reader, who will be baffled by the mathematical equations sprinkled throughout. The evident honesty of the author's personal search for the ways in which musical and mathematical descriptions present a common ``emblem of mind'' compensates for his less than scintillating prose style. If there is no real revelation here, there is plenty of lively insight, in particular Rothstein's admirable attempts to find specifics in both mathematics and music to support not only the Keatsian equivalence between beauty and truth, but also his belief that both the beautiful and the true lead to a hitherto unsuspected depth of emotional awareness. The Romantic poets' search for essence beneath the superficial details of experience forms something of a subtext, and the author appropriately compares his own process to Wordsworth's journey to the top of Mount Snowdon in quest of ``the interrelationships between objects in the natural world and the mind of the observer.'' Readers more interested in substance than glamour—and willing to follow their guide through some rocky terrain—will be rewarded.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8129-2298-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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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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