A forthright and affecting series of autobiographical sketches of Christian life.

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REFLECTIONS OF A SOUTHERN BOY

DEVOTIONS FROM THE DEEP SOUTH

A Christian devotional offers a Southerner’s ruminations.

The latest book from Cunningham (River Ruckus, Bloody Bay, 2014, etc.) is an old-fashioned faith devotional buttressed by the author’s stories about living in the American South. He grew up in metropolitan Mobile, sometimes visited his grandparents in rural Alabama, and eventually graduated from the University of Alabama. As a result, he has a broad swath of colorful life experiences on which to draw in this slim work of Scripture lessons clothed in various personal reflections. In each of the 27 quick chapters (generally two or three pages), Cunningham opens with a Bible quotation, proceeds to a personal anecdote of some kind, links that vignette to a biblical story, offers a prayer specifically keyed to the lesson conveyed, provides a Bible reflection, includes relevant Scriptural passages, and leaves a space for readers to make notes. For instance, he opens one chapter with memories of the years he waited to receive an upright piano that had been a legacy from a beloved grandmother, connects them to the far greater number of years Abraham waited for God to fulfill his promises, and supplies a straightforward homily: “We have no reason to doubt God. He promises us that if we, like Abraham, wait patiently and continue in faith, we’ll obtain our inheritance.” When Cunningham remembers visiting the Greater Gulf State Fair House of Mirrors as a child, he elaborates: Mirrors “cannot show our spiritual condition. God’s perfect spiritual mirror, His Word, does that. Every time we read it, we observe our spiritual reflection.” There’s a very inviting, back-to-basics, personal aspect to the author’s approach here, and he works this element with careful but unobtrusive skill. This is effectively balanced with some standard lessons from Scriptures, delivered to his readers in intimate terms, almost always with a distinctly Southern flair. “Lot’s experience teaches us an important lesson: don’t flirt with sin, nor even go near it,” he writes about the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Sure, it may appear attractive on the outside, all shiny and full of fun, like a brand new pickup truck or a freshly painted barn where folks inside are having a lively hoedown.” But some of these traditional readings lead to familiar problems found in this genre, as with the lesson Cunningham learned from his diabetes diagnosis: “The Lord took my diabetes curse and turned it into a blessing. Look for His blessing in every situation. Our God is good.” (A natural question is of course why would a benevolent God allow such a diagnosis—or create diabetes in the first place.) But the simple and direct faith outlined in these pungent meditations smooths out such doctrinal qualms and molds the guide’s narrative into a generally heartwarming portrait of religious devotion.

A forthright and affecting series of autobiographical sketches of Christian life.

Pub Date: May 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73224-880-9

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Ashland Park Books

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2019

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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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