A delight for anyone with an interest in agricultural fairs, the late 19th century, or rural Americana.

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The Life and Times of the Great Danbury State Fair

A charming chronicle of an annual fair in Danbury, Connecticut, begun by the late Gladys Stetson Leahy and recently finished by her grandson.

In 1956, John Leahy, the owner and general manager of the Great Danbury State Fair, convinced his wife to write its history. The first few chapters of the result are more about the Leahys’ domestic life than the fair itself, but the author’s gift for amusing anecdotes and telling details makes it eminently readable. Readers will be won over by the second page when she recounts her reaction to her husband’s sudden insistence that she write the book: “This wasn’t so bad. What if he had decided I ought to learn to play the clavichord? I have a friend whose husband, all unsolicited, brought home an Irish harp for her birthday.” She begins with the history of agricultural fairs in general before settling into the origin of Danbury’s in the late 19th century, and then she jumps to World War II, when wartime shortages forced its temporary closing. Her husband became the fair’s majority stockholder and general manager during that hiatus and oversaw its resumption in 1946. Despite fires, racing accidents, and bad weather, the fair thrived throughout the period covered by the author, who ends her section in 1956, encouraging readers to attend the fair themselves. After she found that it was too expensive to have the book published, she put the manuscript away in her attic, where her grandson found it after her death. Stetson later added a section covering the years from 1956 to 1981, including the fair’s demise, despite attempts by locals to save it. He’s a less-engaging writer than his grandmother, but he still moves the history along briskly, providing a different point of view on John Leahy and on the fair—that of a child who grew up amid its pageantry. He recounts travels with his stepgrandfather to other fairs and conventions as far away as Calgary, Alberta, and his increasing involvement in running the fair as he grew. His grief at the sale of the fairgrounds to a company that later built a shopping mall will sadden readers as well.

A delight for anyone with an interest in agricultural fairs, the late 19th century, or rural Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9965674-5-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Emerald Lake Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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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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