A first-rate collection from a first-rate writer.

READ REVIEW

CREATIONISTS

SELECTED ESSAYS, 1993-2006

An eclectic and engaging selection of recent pieces, mostly about other writers, from the award-winning novelist (The March, 2005, etc.).

Doctorow’s playful title (it alludes to those who create, not those who believe we were created) masks a serious purpose—to examine the mystery and the magic of human creation. Although he focuses principally on novelists and playwrights, he includes a very strong piece about Einstein, whose creativity, Doctorow argues, though astonishing, was nonetheless similar to the acts of novelists and artists and creative thinkers of all sorts. These essays form an impressive collection, in one sense, because they are so different from one another. They all deal with “creationists,” but they originally appeared as speeches, forewords or afterwords to other books, remarks at symposia, essays in literary or political journals. As a result, although each bears Doctorow’s signature intelligence and lyricism, each has a singularity, as well; these are not cookie-cutter pieces lifted from the same piece of rolled dough. Doctorow has no peer in his powerful use of imagery. In his wonderful piece on Melville, he offers the picture of Moby-Dick swallowing not just the Pequod but the entire English language. He notes that Hemingway found the “most romantic face” of “our great operative myth of rugged individualism.” He blasts Margaret Thatcher and George Bush; he writes hymns to Arthur Miller and John Dos Passos and Harpo Marx. The range of these pieces reveals Doctorow’s wide reading and capacious mind: He takes on the book of Genesis, plus Malraux, Poe (whose poetry Doctorow disdains), Twain, Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Kafka, W.G. Sebald and others. Also present are some keen-edged political and social commentary. “Why write when you could be shooting someone?” he asks at the outset. And his final piece (about thermonuclear bombs) notes that World War II brought an end to the quaint distinction between combatants and noncombatants. The bomb is an equal-opportunity destroyer.

A first-rate collection from a first-rate writer.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-6495-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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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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