Despite some repetition of detail among the essays, each is a standalone gem.

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BOOK OF DAYS

PERSONAL ESSAYS

A literary late bloomer blossoms in this collection of personal essays.

“The memoir and the personal essay are crucially different forms,” writes essayist and novelist Gordon (It Will Come to Me, 2009, etc.), who here expresses more affinity for the latter in dealing with some of the material that informed her two volumes in the former genre. The best of these ten essays combine the details of memory with reflective insight and a command of tone that resists cliché, while refusing to settle into simplistic understanding. “What I really wanted to do was to examine my experience, to think aloud,” she writes. These pieces constitute a more or less chronological narrative, from childhood amid the household tension of a professor father and an alcoholic mother, through a “suicidal gesture” followed by an institutional stay and decades of serial therapy, and a marriage that she categorizes as “long, loyal, close, angry,” as it spurred her transition from therapy to writing. “Writing has allowed me…to escape the coils of therapy,” she writes. “I don’t mean that writing has been therapeutic, though sometimes it has been. The kind of writing I do now is associative and self-exploratory—much like the process of therapy, except that the therapist is absent and I’ve given up all ambition to get well.” Whether she’s explaining her affinity for Kafka or exploring the tribal rituals of faculty wives—her husband is a professor, as her father was—Gordon writes with flinty humor, unsentimental precision and a refusal to let herself or anyone else off too easily. In a characteristic twist on conventional wisdom, she writes that “the unlived life might not be worth examining.”

Despite some repetition of detail among the essays, each is a standalone gem.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-52589-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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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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