Don’t read this unless you’re prepared to be saddened, encouraged, and changed.

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LIVING JUSTICE

FREEDOM, LOVE, AND THE MAKING OF “THE EXONERATED”

A lyrical trip from the glitz of theater to the darkest corners of the American justice system.

When Erik and Jessica met, they didn’t know that they’d date, marry, and write an acclaimed play together. But they did, and now they’re here to tell us the story behind the story. Social-activist Jessica dragged Erik to a conference on the death penalty, and both were riveted and horrified by learning about people put on death row for crimes they didn’t commit. They left the conference determined to write a play about the wrongly convicted, and so they traveled the country, interviewing dozens of former death row inmates. The play they ultimately produced about six of those people, The Exonerated, ran on Broadway to much acclaim (Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were in the cast). It toured the country and was seen by Supreme Court justices and by Illinois Governor George Ryan, who subsequently commuted the sentences of all 167 prisoners on Illinois’s death row. Central to the present book are the authors’ descriptions of their travels, including their interviews with Dale Johnston, who’d been wrongly convicted of killing his stepdaughter and her boyfriend, and Clarence Brandley, an exonerated man in that belly of the beast, Texas. Blank and Jensen weave the story of their own relationship, up to and including their honeymoon, into the account, but romance is decidedly a subplot; there’s just enough information so you don’t feel cheated by a coy, withholding memoirist, yet the love story never detracts from the real one, while the behind-the-scenes look at getting a play produced is a delightful bonus. To boot, the two are wonderful writers, able to avoid the tics that can mar duo-first-person accounts—there’s no “I (Jessica) did such-and-such”—and the prose is funny and crisp. Indeed, the recounting of the play is every bit as affecting as the play itself.

Don’t read this unless you’re prepared to be saddened, encouraged, and changed.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7434-8345-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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