A GANG OF PECKSNIFFS

AND OTHER COMMENTS ON NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS, EDITORS AND REPORTERS

Theo Lippman, Jr. supplies a sizable sketch of Mencken to go with this selection of the great curmudgeon's nasty comments on newspaper publishers, editors and reporters. Tightly selected pieces, these show Mencken at his wittiest and most barbed (in later years the wit ran down and became rather mean). He worked on the Baltimore Sun for over 40 years, while producing his much revised The American Language, several volumes of reminiscence and satire, and studies of Shaw and Nietzsche. The pieces are from The Smart Set (which Mencken co-edited with George Jean Nathan), The American Mercury (which he edited), and various other magazines and newspapers. The roastings of Hearst and Britain's Northcliffe are balanced by sensitive depictions of Joseph Pulitzer and, especially, of the garden variety daily newspaper reporter. News gathering is a young man's game and Mencken's sad picture of a 40-50-year-old journalist, calcified but still hacking out stories ("correct in every idea and hollow as a jug"), connects. His hardest attack is on the "pecksniffs"—hypocritical publishers who in Mencken's day were bewailing infringements of the First Amendment while harassing the public with idiotic alarms about Bolshevism and bringing on the wholesale jailing and deportation of innocent men (remember Eugene Debs' prison term?). ". . . the great American journals continue to display, as usual, the morals and public spirit of so many Prohibition enforcement officers, Congressmen, or streetwalkers." Great fun all the way, and first-rate American prose crisp as a new dollar bill.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0870003208

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Arlington House

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1975

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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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