A blissful travel book transfixed on a specially favored geography, and an intriguing chapter in the author’s ongoing...

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SLIPPING INTO PARADISE

WHY I LIVE IN NEW ZEALAND

Masson, seeker of animal wisdom and human truth (The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats, 2002, etc.), pens a love letter to New Zealand.

Apparently it’s a lot more than Canada in a better location or the place Peter Jackson shot Lord of the Rings. According to the author, this isolated land of do-it-yourselfers, home to four million unpretentious kiwis, is the last Eden, and Masson has found a home at last. He’s applied for citizenship in this antipodal paradise, where prehistoric rainforest primeval flourishes virtually outside his window. In the New Zealand woods, he rhapsodizes over the beautiful puriri, the mighty totara trees, and the friendly piwakqwaka, not to mention the moving call of the morepork. In addition to all the trees, birds, flora, and fauna, New Zealand boasts the natural phenomenon of Sir Edmund Hillary, whom our arborist-ornithologist-philosopher visits eagerly. Masson also salutes all things Maori, with perhaps a bit of equivocation regarding old reports of cannibalism. He provides a suggested itinerary (“follow the route to Titirangi”) to locate some of the pleasures of “Godzone Newzillan” (that’s God’s own New Zealand to you outlanders), from Hot Water Beach to the best falafel in the country. Another plus, declares the author: there are no public intellectuals in New Zealand. On the debit side, the suicide rate rivals Finland’s, people regularly spank their children, and the performing arts are a bit lacking—though Masson overlooks a national anthem that ranks as one of the world’s best. On a personal level, our far-from-shy scribe unabashedly honors his family and himself: in India, Masson recalls, “Pundits could not get enough of my questions and would speak with me in Sanskrit for as long as I could stay awake!”

A blissful travel book transfixed on a specially favored geography, and an intriguing chapter in the author’s ongoing personal history. (English/Maori glossaries; b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2004

ISBN: 0-345-46614-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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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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