A moving tribute to Walt Whitman’s truest heir.

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THE POEM THAT CHANGED AMERICA

“HOWL” FIFTY YEARS LATER

Poet and anthologist Shinder (Tales from the Couch, 2000) rounds up two dozen literati to reflect on the revolutionary impact of Allen Ginsberg’s most famous work.

“Howl” has been outraging the squares and enrapturing the alienated ever since Ginsberg first read portions of it at a San Francisco gallery in 1955. Published in the famous City Lights paperback edition in 1956, it overcame obscenity prosecutions to spread its subversive message overseas (Andrei Codrescu recalls reading it in Romania as a teenager) and across the generations (Alicia Ostriker, Marge Piercy and Eileen Myles are among the younger poets who write here of being inspired by it to break free from literary constraints). “Allen Ginsberg is responsible for loosening the breath of American poetry,” Helen Vendler once wrote; Shinder’s introduction points out that it loosened up a whole lot more. Amiri Baraka captures—in jazzy Beat prose—the poem’s status as a quintessential Beat document; Mark Doty investigates it as an expression of queer sexuality (but not an icon of the gay movement); Rick Moody proclaims its relevance to the punk-rock crowd; and Eliot Katz rather drably explains its political relevance, then and now. Thank goodness for Marjorie Perloff’s excellent explication of its formal qualities, or we might forget that “Howl” is, first and foremost, a truly great poem. (Doty also does a nice job of reminding us how funny it is.) But Ginsberg’s cry of revolt and embrace of excess has always burst the bounds of literature, promising ecstasy and liberation to all kinds of people, from Robert Lowell to Bob Dylan, 1960s radicals to New Age spiritual seekers. It was, perhaps, “the last poem to hit the world with the impact of news and grip it with the tenacity of a pop song,” as Luc Sante notes with characteristic acuity. Variable in quality though they are, taken as a whole the essays here offer a plethora of reasons why.

A moving tribute to Walt Whitman’s truest heir.

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-17343-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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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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