COYOTE V. ACME

Fresh from a memoir cum family history (Family, 1994), the author returns to the antic form with which he first made his name. Here is a gathering of his funny stuff culled from the pages of the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker and, no kidding, Army Man. Though the collection is not seamless, the 22 short sketches harbor some truly loony stuff. Founded on vaguely recognizable facets of modern American life, Frazier's pieces use to wonderful effect the babble of banking and finance, the cant of showbiz, and with particular style, the language of literature. There's an alternate view of Wuthering Heights (in which ``Cathy died, but not seriously''). There's a short story overflowing with meaningful relationships. (``Now that I am grown, with a husband and a wife and children of my own . . .'' muses the narrator). There's Boswell's life of Don Johnson. And there is a wickedly accurate parody of Bob Hope's golfing reminiscences. Frazier has perfect pitch for language, whether it's litigious, as in the case of Wile E. Coyote v. Acme Company or instructive, as in the tax directive wherein some actual IRS wordage is embedded. Theatrical shtick isn't scanted, either, in a Studs Turkel-ish interview in which a fatuous Comrade Stalin is recalled expounding on the art and practice of stand-up comedy. In his S.J. Perelmanic vein, Frazier is likely to do a send-up on a news item of signal silliness. Though not all the little pieces are of equal quality (one riff that doesn't quite work is a commencement lecture from a scholar possessed by demons), they are all worth reading. And in the time it takes to read the average book just once, this text can be read over and over again—which is not such a bad idea.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-13033-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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