CHINATOWN

A PORTRAIT OF A CLOSED SOCIETY

Kinkead, a frequent New Yorker contributor, boldly knocks at the bamboo curtain shielding New York's Chinatown, until it lifts a bit—revealing a community so exotic as to be ``virtually a nation unto itself.'' To nearly all the Chinese whom Kinkead meets in Chinatown, she is a low faan (``barbarian'')—``an object of fear, distrust, indifference.'' Yet, with the help of a Hong Kong-born translator, she slowly gains the confidence of waiters, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, healers, and so on, drawing on their stories, as well as on scholarly research, to piece together this personable look at ``the largest Chinese community in the Western hemisphere.'' No mean feat, that: typical is the author's exploration of a dark alley leading to a decrepit tenement where she meets a withered ancient who says that Kinkead is the first white person he's spoken to in 60 years in Chinatown. What keeps 150,000 Chinese in this isolated, crowded, crumbling ``slum''? Ironically, Kinkead finds, it's basically the urge to get out- -fulfilled through the single-minded accumulation of wealth. While Kinkead talks to men who work 80-hour weeks at menial jobs, live in dire poverty, and save a small fortune each year, her report makes it clear that the engine that drives Chinatown's economy is crime, festering in sweatshops and gambling halls, thriving on extortion and drug-dealing. Kinkead's too much of an outsider to penetrate the tongs and gangs that control Chinatown crime, but she offers comprehensive briefs on them, vivified by a tour of the mean streets with a veteran cop. But there's a gentler side, too, to Chinatown, and Kinkead covers that as well—family ties, festivals, Chinese medicine and cuisine, the tradition of concubinage, and the burgeoning urges to assimilate and to bring democracy to the Chinese mainland. Told in strong, clean prose: an exotic and fascinating journey by a modern-day, urban Marco Polo. (Eight pages of b&w photographs- -not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-016776-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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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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