A cogent look at the United States from someone who’s seen it as an outsider and as an insider.

READ REVIEW

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

A FIRST GENERATION IMMIGRANT IN SEARCH OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

In his debut, a Dutch immigrant reflects on his decision to permanently relocate his family to the United States and the future of the country he now calls home.

Jager has a unique perspective, informed by his twin experiences of growing up in the Netherlands and raising a family across the Atlantic in America. The book opens with a brief memoir recollecting his time in the Netherlands and, by extension, looks at the plight of Western Europe as the specter of the Soviet Union still haunted the continent. The author draws unexpected comparisons between the political trajectories of the Netherlands and the United States—particularly their commitments to democracy and pluralism—and uses each to critique the other. Although the author finds social life in the U.S. unsatisfying, at best a “mixed bag,” he’s impressed by the country’s economic opportunity, its spirit of entrepreneurship and its historic resilience in the face of adversity. Culturally, however, Jager struggles to reconcile his intellectual cosmopolitanism with what he sees as the general provincialism of Americans isolated from the rest of the world. More than half the work is devoted to an ambitiously comprehensive diagnosis of the country’s current challenges, covering a diverse range of topics that include gun control, campaign spending, health care, unemployment, terrorism, tolerance and inequality. While always thoughtful, the author has no claim to expertise on these subjects and so offers little that’s fresh. His discussion on immigration, however, is enhanced by his own personal experience, and he writes briskly about the ways in which the current system fails: “A problem with the current immigration policy in the USA is that we make illegal immigration too easy and legal immigration too hard!” The book as a whole tries to serve too many functions—personal recollection, sweeping political commentary, cultural analysis—and is a bit disjointed as a result. It does manage, however, to deftly combine serious criticism with a sense of hopefulness, crafting what the author rightfully calls an “optimistic book.”

A cogent look at the United States from someone who’s seen it as an outsider and as an insider.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692209776

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Castnet Corp.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more