CHRISTINA STEAD

A BIOGRAPHY

An absorbing biography that will help Stead's fans place her fiction in the context of her life and may well attract new readers to her work. Christina Stead (190283), who was born and died in Australia (about which, writes Rowley, she was ``both nostalgic and patronising''), did her writing during her years in Europe and the US. Although she tapped real events and people for her fiction—and not just for her autobiographical novels, including the superb The Man Who Loved Children—she could be secretive in her private papers, identifying people by fictional names, writing in code, and ultimately destroying many documents. Despite this obstacle, Rowley (an Australian academic, currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University) offers a coherent and convincing portrait that reaches back into a youth in which Stead was overshadowed by her father, who first instilled in her a lifelong socialist orientation, insecurity about her appearance (he dubbed her ``Pig Face''), and a yearning to be adored by a man. When she arrived in London in 1928, Stead found just the man—William Blake (originally Blech), whom Rowley succinctly describes as a ``Marxist investments manager who seemed to know something about everything.'' Blake hired her to be his secretary, and Stead accompanied him to Paris, where their romance flourished—despite a wife who would not divorce Blake for 23 years. When the bank employing Blake collapsed, the pair fled to New York. Stead's writings earned only modest royalties even when favorably reviewed, and Blake could not find work, so they returned to Europe in a consistently difficult hunt for economic security that gave their lives a nomadic flavor. By 1949, Stead said to a friend, ``I have been a writer, quite unsuccessfully for twenty years,'' although a revival of interest in her work, which began in the mid-1960s, helped her return to Australia in 1969 as a famous author and ``Official Personage.'' A welcome study of an underrated author. (16 pages of photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8050-3411-0

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

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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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