SISTER'S CHOICE

TRADITION AND CHANGE IN AMERICAN WOMEN'S WRITING

The title of this collection of essays (some delivered as lectures at Oxford in 1989) refers to a quilting pattern—the image, as Showalter (English/Princeton; Sexual Anarchy, 1990, etc.) explains, that best describes women's literature in America: its communal and ritual nature, its continuity, its diversity, its history as a domestic art that lapsed into disrepute before being resurrected into a high art in the 60's. Showalter's dual preoccupation with the role of women writers and the special identity of American literature appears in the first essay, ``Miranda's Story,'' describing the way various American subcultures have appropriated The Tempest—the role of Miranda, the Dark Lady, Shakespeare's sister—as played by American women, the prototype being Margaret Fuller. In successive chapters on Alcott's Little Women, Chopin's The Awakening, and Wharton's The House of Mirth, Showalter identifies the distinctive voices, values, preoccupations, ``hybridity'' of American women's writing that makes any question of being Shakespeare's sister irrelevant. And in an astute chapter on what she calls ``women's gothic,'' she further explores the contributions of women writers to the dominant male culture. Even in her chapter on the lost generation of women writers of the 20's—poets such as Amy Lowell, Sara Teasdale, and Elinor Wylie, and Afro-Americans such as Zora Neale Hurston—she finds, in spite of the exclusion, victimization, and repression, a ``literary history of female mastery and growth.'' Persuasive, ranging, perceptive, unpolemical, Showalter here offers a splendid example of humanistic writing, of her own ``female mastery and growth,'' a genuine contribution to contemporary thinking about women's literature. Her flaw: excessive quoting of scholars who don't write as well as she does, illustrating merely that she has done her homework. (Photographs of quilts.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-19-812383-3

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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