NEWS FROM THE BORDER

A MOTHER'S MEMOIR OF HER AUTISTIC SON

Another heart-rending entry in the recent rush of memoirs from autistics and/or their mothers (Catherine Maurice's Let Me Hear Your Voice, p. 576, etc.). Much progress has been made recently in diagnosing and treating autism, but not nearly enough to ease the suffering of the children and family vividly described here. McDonnell's son, Paul, is a high-functioning autistic, more socially capable, less prone to rages, with some emotional responsiveness—which, in some ways, may have made his condition even more difficult for his family. Doctors and other specialists, misled by Paul's responsiveness, missed the diagnosis; most favored in Paul's early years was the catchall label of ``learning disabled.'' But McDonnell (Women's Studies/Carleton College) wasn't satisfied when she discovered that Paul's repetitive behaviors—including fascination with light- switches and numbers, as well as resistance to language—were characteristic of autism. The author writes of her side of the story with brutal honesty and some insight. Frustrated, frightened, and stressed even further by the arrival of a baby daughter with (mild) cerebral palsy, the household seemed dominated by anger: Shouting matches at the dinner table were frequent. But whether living in England, Ireland, or Minnesota, the McDonnells never stopped trying to find help for Paul—and Paul never stopped trying to fit himself into the ``normal'' world. Autism is a familiar syndrome, thanks to the movie The Rain Man (which helped Paul accept that he wasn't ``normal''); moreover, nationwide efforts have been made to educate adults and children about people with this handicap. Still, the amount of cruelty—both intentional and accidental—inflicted on Paul by peers, teachers, and even therapists is striking. In an afterword, Paul, now a college student aiming for a career in meteorology, describes some of that heartbreak. A paean to perseverance that's rich in personal detail but short on new information or helpful strategies. (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-60574-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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