Nearly six decades’ worth of eloquent bile, dispensed with unmatched craft and wit.

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THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF GORE VIDAL

A splendid, savvy distillation of the best from the veteran novelist and essayist.

This lively volume’s raison d’etre is the inclusion of recent politically charged commentary, but most readers will huddle happily with its several golden oldies. For example, the included non-literary essays conclude with “Black Tuesday,” a reaction to the events of 9/11 that draws the mordant conclusion that “each month we are confronted by a new horrendous enemy at whom we must strike before he destroys us.” Fair—and true—enough, but lesser mortals have made such observations. It took a writer of Vidal’s prodigious gifts to deflate the godlike reputations of the Kennedy clan (“The Holy Family”) and America’s most ebulliently macho chief executive (“Theodore Roosevelt: An American Sissy”), and to examine tax inequity and activism during our early history (“Homage to Daniel Shays”) and the late unlamented 1970s (“The Second American Revolution”). Elsewhere, in a clutch of literary essays, Vidal honors such critically embattled contemporaries as Tennessee Williams, Edmund Wilson and the now-rediscovered Dawn Powell. He’s rougher on others, such as the purveyors of “new fiction” led by maverick innovators Pynchon and Barthes (“American Plastic: The Matter of Fiction”) and university-based scholar-critics who overexplain and obfuscate the obvious (“The Hacks of Academe”). But Vidal strolls through many arenas, offering an affectionately incisive guide to Italo Calvino’s whimsical complexity and a brilliant analysis—really, it’s almost beyond praise—of the industrious and honorable William Dean Howells, whom Vidal has the good sense to admire almost unreservedly.

Nearly six decades’ worth of eloquent bile, dispensed with unmatched craft and wit.

Pub Date: June 17, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-52484-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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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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