JOURNEY TOWARD THE CRADLE OF MANKIND

Dazzling, pithy vignettes of early 20th century India from a wandering Italian poet. Not yet 30 years old, Gozzano already had a mighty reputation as one of the ``Twilight'' poets in his native Italy when tuberculosis sent him packing to the subcontinent in 1912 in search of health. He was commissioned by La Stampa to send back dispatches on his travels, and they are wonderful observations of daily life: bright, delicate, lucid and sympathetic, ironic and moody. The writing is sharp as a tack, whether Gozzano is taking in a Parsee funeral or describing the Bengal thrushes invading his living room, the architecture of Benares (``an endless labyrinth of filthy alleys, a worthy breeding ground for all the world's epidemics'') or the malignancy of the weather. Sometimes he pulls out all the stops, as at the Taj Mahal, celebrating its ``vistas from unspoiled dreams,'' but for the most part he is delighted to ``discover the unusual in the small, everyday things'': the powers of kohl as eye makeup, the minor vexations of travel, the distracting pleasures of jugglers and fakirs, the amused realization that the true ``rulers of India are the animals, especially the crows.'' And while the supernatural, miraculous India eludes him (the Taj Mahal is an exception), he is aware that part of the problem is that he has approached India with misconceptions inspired by books: ``I have to free myself of the memories of too many descriptions.'' He also discovers that travel has its disenchantments: One pays a price for ``wanting to see the reality of the dead stones close up.'' Given the brevity of Gozzano's sojourn—he was there for only six weeks- -it has been suggested that at least some of his descriptions were semifictional, with elements culled from contemporary travelogues. Even in that context he shines, graphically incandescent and eager. A little treasure, worth twice the price.

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8101-6007-2

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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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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