THE ART OF SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS

Close readings that train a brilliant spotlight on Shakespeare's poetic performance, without however quite doing justice to the full dimensions of his achievement. A celebrated and prolific critic, reviewer, and lecturer on poetry, Vendler (The Given and the Made, 1995) offers an illuminating companion for Bardolators of all levels and stripes. Adamant that hers is a work of ``commentary,'' Vendler analyzes each sonnet in turn (they appear in both original and modernized formats), explicating in an accessible manner the structures that organize them, without dwelling on the significance of her interpretations. While Vendler attends dutifully to imagery, and occasionally (too seldom, in fact) to rhythm and meter, she makes Shakespeare's language her central object. She illuminates the sources—practical, philosphical, Anglo-Saxon, and classical—for his multifaceted vocabulary; underlines his love for anagrams, puns, and echoing effects; and highlights the subtle ways in which the sonnets draw on his dramatist's knack for dialogue. Her overall purpose is to showcase the dynamic force of the sonnets as ``speech acts,'' as interventions in ongoing discussions. This approach works best where Vendler can invoke an intimate interlocutor for Shakespeare typically the Young Man or the Dark Lady, considered by critical tradition to be the sonnets' addressees. For example, her discussion of the famous sonnet 116 (which begins ``Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments'') convincingly contends that Shakespeare there responds to the Young Man whom he so admired. But Vendler seldom considers how the poet might have been seeking to project his voice into broader discussions. Nor, unfortunately, given her gifts, does she even so much as gesture toward relating her readings to the discussion of Shakespeare-in-history that has lately absorbed not only academic commentators, but also such mainstream writers as Garry Wills. Nevertheless, an immensely enriching account of Shakespeare's complex verse: readings whose perspicuity and accuracy will form a solid basis for many more.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-63711-9

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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