A practical, nonboring companion for writers aiming to hone their style.

25 GREAT SENTENCES AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY

A self-described "language enthusiast" analyzes memorable sentences.

Woods, author of English Grammar for Dummies, among dozens of other books on writing and literature, offers an upbeat, informative guide for writers and readers, focused on the power of sentences. Each of the 25 chapters highlights one exemplary sentence, supplemented by many others that illustrate the same technique, drawn from a capacious range of sources, including Virginia Woolf, Stephen King, Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, the King James Bible, and even ads for potato chips, candy, and soda. Woods avoids literary jargon and carefully explains terms that might be unfamiliar to nonspecialist readers. Looking at structure, for example, she identifies several interesting constructions—parallelism, reversed sentences, questions, for example—and “crossed sentences,” which she calls “the neon signs of the sentence world. They attract attention.” Her primary example is John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” and she also cites Groucho Marx: “Money will not make you happy, and happy will not make you money.” Some sentences, notes the author, succeed through surprise, such as Lucille Ball’s “The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” A section on diction examines verbs, tone, word shifts (Gertrude Stein’s “There is no there there” is one example), and inventive coinage. Poetry appears most frequently in chapters on sound (onomatopoeia, repetition, and matching sounds) and visual presentation. A section on connection/comparison analyzes use of the first person and second person, synesthesia, and contrast—e.g., Neil Armstrong’s famous “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” A final section on “Extremes” focuses on unusually long “marathon sentences” and sentences that are marvels of concision, such as E.M. Forster’s “Only connect.” Each chapter ends with inventive writing exercises.

A practical, nonboring companion for writers aiming to hone their style.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00485-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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