Steeped in sarcasm and alive to the irony of any situation, observant and wry, omnivorous in the scope of its details and...

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INTO THICK AIR

BIKING TO THE BELLYBUTTON OF SIX CONTINENTS

Delightful debut travelogue by botanist Malusa, who cycled to the lowest point on each of six continents.

This peculiar quest sent him along routes connecting areas as diverse as Cairo and the Dead Sea, the Australian outback and Lake Eyre. Though Malusa personally devised each of his six expeditions (he traversed every continent except Antarctica), the Discovery Channel Online paid him to carry a satellite telephone and transmit blogs of his travels. Rather than simply a collection of these blogs, his book tells the full story behind them. Riding a bicycle made Malusa much more vulnerable to his surroundings than the average traveler; it lowered his expectations for food and lodging, thereby connecting him with each region’s least privileged residents. Locals from Darwin to Djibouti constantly approached him, offering tea or pastries or just respite from the elements. They were probably responding to the same likable quality that comes across in Malusa’s text. Whether describing a visit with a Bedouin family in the Egyptian desert, a hitchhiking journey with road-kill gourmands in the remotest parts of Australia or a chat with gauchos while trying to escape the brutal Patagonian wind, he always seems well-informed and outgoing. Russia’s icy autumn sent him scurrying into lofty but empty old hotels along the route from Moscow to the Caspian Sea, a remarkably untouristed region in which he marveled at the vestiges of communism and joined two lively wedding parties. Malusa wears his expertise as a botanist lightly here, mentioning flora and fauna but detailing the full panoply of his impressions. This dense yet desultory account moves quickly, never lingering on any encounter for more than a few sentences, no matter how juicy. It’s not as informative as the works of Bill Bryson, but easily as funny.

Steeped in sarcasm and alive to the irony of any situation, observant and wry, omnivorous in the scope of its details and utterly subjective.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-57805-141-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sierra Club/Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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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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