There are too many ephemeral or weakly written pieces to appeal beyond Baldwin’s devoted admirers, but the best of the ’60s...

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THE CROSS OF REDEMPTION

UNCOLLECTED WRITINGS

A grab bag of pieces from novelist and firebrand Baldwin (1924–1987), varying in quality but marked by his trademark ferocity.

The author’s best-known and most powerful nonfiction pieces have long been available in book form (The Price of the Ticket, 1985, etc.), so inevitably this book has a B-list feel to it. Most disposable are the book reviews he wrote in the late ’40s, which reveal a writer struggling to find his voice, and in which he takes swipes at Maxim Gorky, Erskine Caldwell and James M. Cain with little subtlety or insight. But by the late ’50s and early ’60s, Baldwin’s thinking about American racism matured, balancing reason and outrage, and many of the pieces are worthy companions to his provocative essay collection The Fire Next Time (1963). In “As Much Truth as One Can Bear,” published in 1962, he pleads for an American literature that abandons lost-innocence themes embraced by Hemingway and Faulkner, and throughout his ’60s essays he critiques an American society that had failed to face its hypocrisy head-on. The book is perhaps best read as a showcase for Baldwin’s versatility—he was comfortable covering theater, music and sports through the filter of race. In a long-form reported piece on the Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston prizefight in 1962, the author displays an admirable eye for detail of the boxers as well as the reporters and hangers-on. Similarly, a series of letters from Turkey, Israel and France expose his private concerns about his work as he was finishing his controversial novel Another Country (1962), while the transcript of a 1984 panel on blacks and Jews provides evidence of how well Baldwin could think on the fly.

There are too many ephemeral or weakly written pieces to appeal beyond Baldwin’s devoted admirers, but the best of the ’60s essays underscore the reasons his work endures.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-37882-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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