THE LEVELING WIND

POLITICS, THE CULTURE, AND OTHER NEWS, 1990-1994

Another 175 pieces of Will's lively, inquiring mind. In his fifth collection (Restoration, 1992, etc.) of short- take commentaries (drawn largely from work published in Newsweek and the Washington Post over the past four years), the syndicated columnist addresses a wealth of consequential issues. To a great extent, however, Will's varied pieces are linked by his concern about the chill, leveling winds of cultural change now whistling through contemporary American society. Informed by a classically conservative sensibility, the author inveighs against the epidemic of illegitimate births, promotion of group (rather than individual) rights, the desensitizing effects of represented violence, the politicization of education, the coarsening of popular entertainment, and the socioeconomic costs of urban decay. Other targets of opportunity include George Bush (who, Will feels, Desert Storm notwithstanding, effectively squandered Ronald Reagan's legacy), Bill Clinton (whose on-again/off-again liberalism earns him comparison with Henry of Navarre, one of history's slicker chameleons), quota systems (whether ethnic, racial, or sexual), interventionist government, Patrick Buchanan, political agendas tarted up to pass as civil rights, the proliferation of victim status, and academe's tenured radicals. If Will finds considerable fault with the latter-day US, he does not ignore the plus side of the ledger altogether (noting at one point that journalists seldom report on all the planes that land safely). By way of example, he celebrates many of the dedicated individuals who work with underclass kids on the mean streets of inner cities that have long since lost their alabaster gleam. The Pulitzer Prizewinning author also has kind words for meritocracy (wherever observed), free trade, traditional family values, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson (whom he designates the man of the millennium), Harry Truman, and other icons whose libertarian appeal may not be readily apparent to casual students of ideology. Articulately partisan critiques of the volatile and evolving state of the union.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 1994

ISBN: 0-670-86021-2

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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