Humane, razor sharp, and charmingly told: a must for anyone interested in the story of how books are made.

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BOOK BUSINESS

PUBLISHING: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

Everything you wanted to know about the publishing industry in seven easy lessons.

Epstein, former editorial director of Random House and the first recipient of the National Book Award for Distinguished Service to American Letters, takes a stroll down memory lane as he dissects the rather pathetic state of the publishing industry at the dawn of the Internet age. He has certainly earned the right. There is something Forrest Gump–like about Epstein’s ability to turn up at so many important moments in the history of the New York publishing industry—Gump-like, that is, if one can imagine Forrest founding The New York Review of Books, drinking martinis with Edmund Wilson, and reading advance copies of Nabokov’s Lolita. The thesis tucked in amidst the reminiscences is simple: The publishing and retail bookselling industry is in a state of “terminal decrepitude,” laid low by structural problems that the Amazon.coms of the world can do nothing to overcome. Epstein locates the beginning of the industry’s decline in the rise of the suburbs after WWII; the new suburban bookstores had to move books like any other commodity and therefore demanded fast-moving bestsellers instead of the backlist products that had formerly ensured the publishers’ profitability. Little more than anecdotal support is given for this analysis, but Epstein is a man who knows his industry, so the absence of hard evidence is mostly forgivable. The only time he seems less than trustworthy is when he turns to the future; he’s trapped in many of the same cyber-platitudes that bedevil the public at large. But this book, based on Epstein’s Norton Lectures delivered in 1999 at the New York Public Library, is really about memories, not predictions.

Humane, razor sharp, and charmingly told: a must for anyone interested in the story of how books are made.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-04984-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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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