A dense, challenging, dazzling work that will leave readers exhausted but yearning for more.

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TRAVELS IN SIBERIA

The peripatetic author of Great Plains (1989) and On the Rez (2000) returns with an energetic, illuminating account of his several trips to Siberia, where his ferocious curiosity roamed the vast, enigmatic area.

Veteran New Yorker contributor Frazier (Lamentations of the Father: Essays, 2008, etc.) begins bluntly. “Officially,” he writes, “there is no such place as Siberia.” It is not a country, nor a province, yet the region bearing the name is extensive, comprising eight time zones. Throughout, the author confesses to a long love affair with Russia, a relationship that has waxed and waned over the decades but in some of its brightest phases sent him back repeatedly to see what few have seen. Here Frazier records several visits: a summer’s trip via cantankerous automobile across the entire region, in the company of a couple of local companions; a winter’s journey by train and car, during which the car sometimes used frozen waterways for roads; and a return visit to see the effects of the emerging Russian energy industry. He prepared in a fashion familiar to readers of his previous works—read everything he could, talked with anyone who knew anything, planned and schemed and made it happen. He also studied Russian extensively and tried gamely to engage local people he encountered along the way. On the road, he visited local museums and monuments and natural wonders, and he pauses frequently for welcome digressions on the historical background. He camped, fished and ate local delicacies (and indelicacies). Endearingly, he freely admits his inadequacies, fears (during one perilous icy trip he actually composed a farewell message to his family), blunders, dour moods, regrets and loneliness. The contrasts are stark—one day, he walked through the ruins of a remote, frozen Soviet-era prison camp and later saw a ballet in St. Petersburg—and the writing is consistently rich.

A dense, challenging, dazzling work that will leave readers exhausted but yearning for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-27872-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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