A well-researched, historically contextualized biography.

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LEON PATTERSON

A CALIFORNIA STORY

A compelling look at a fierce competitor who died at a young age.

Leon Patterson still remains a legend in certain athletic circles over 60 years after he succumbed to kidney disease. Born into a family of migrant farmworkers from Arkansas, he reportedly began performing manual farm labor at the age of 6, which influenced his cultural attitudes, educational background, and physical prowess. An all-around gifted athlete, he eventually focused his considerable energies on mastering the discus and shot put. When co-author Gerald Haslam (In Thought and Action, 2011, etc.) was a freshman in 1952, he participated in a track meet in which, he says, Leon became “the first high school athlete to put the 12-pound shot over 60 feet in competition.” As he reveals in the afterword, this connection led to his own sporadic interest in Leon’s story over many decades and, ultimately, his desire to present a full, nuanced portrait of this larger-than-life figure. Together with his wife and co-author, Janice, he ably shapes a wide range of source material into a coherent narrative. The trump card here is their access to an unpublished memoir by Dixie Kenney, a girl who captured Leon’s attention and became his biggest supporter. As a girlfriend, wife, training partner of sorts, mother, co-worker, and widow, this is her story as much as it is his, and her perspective is invaluable. The authors write in a largely unadorned style but occasionally employ evocative language, as in a description of the Kern County landscape: “Terrain becomes sloping and hilly there, looking most of the year like the tan, muscular shoulders of resting cougars.” California has attracted many waves of economic migration, spurred by the gold rush, agriculture, railroads, and urban manufacturing; in this case, the Patterson family became part of the oil industry, a milieu with its own set of cultural trappings. Thus, as the subtitle suggests, Haslam presents not just an inspirational tale of personal determination, but also the history of a particular region—one that even longtime residents and admirers of the Golden State may not know.

A well-researched, historically contextualized biography.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0915685264

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Devil Mountain Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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