HENRY MILLER AND JAMES LAUGHLIN

SELECTED LETTERS

The fifth in the series of correspondence between avant-garde New Directions publisher Laughlin and his authors presents a slightly less intimate relationship (and less interesting Miller) but serves to chronicle one facet of Miller's anarchic career. In 1935, when he was still an undergraduate at Harvard and prepared to publish ultramodern writers rather than go into his Pittsburgh family's steel business, Laughlin wrote to the middle-aged author of the banned Tropic of Cancer. The ensuing 44-year correspondence (including others at New Directions, such as the later editor-in-chief Robert MacGregor), brings out unusual personal qualities on both sides. Miller is both comparatively restrained and brief, even in his enthusing suggestion of publishing Siddhartha (which became a New Directions bestseller in the '60s) and his laconic account of his parents' deaths. He also shows the familiar authorial discontent with distribution, sales, promotion, and royalties. The parsimonious Laughlin proves generous in the early years, giving frequent loans and advances, and finally settling on a monthly semisalary for the financially maladroit Miller in lieu of standard royalty payments. Loyally keeping Miller in print, New Directions emerges as cautious but canny, notably during the ban on his notorious books, when they concocted a Henry Miller Reader of permissible material from his works. Editor Wickes (English/Univ. of Oregon; ed., Miller's Letters to Emil, 1989, not reviewed, etc.) supplies a functional introduction, but his notes fluctuate between incomplete and obvious. Although Miller's earlier correspondence was more vital and lusty and his dealing with Grove more controversial, his slightly prickly but perdurable relationship with New Directions spanned both a radical career and a transformation in publishing and literature, as evidenced here.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-393-03864-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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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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