DEATH IN THE DARK

MIDNIGHT EXECUTIONS IN AMERICA

A lawyer argues that Americans do not know enough about how death sentences are carried out and that the way to learn about them is to let TV cameras into the execution chamber. As the title indicates, executions usually take place between midnight and sunrise, before a small number of witnesses. This, says Bessler, who has assisted in the pro bono representation of four death-row inmates, largely accounts for declining interest in this society's most solemn punishment. It allows us to keep out of sight and out of mind the more gruesome aspects of execution, especially when the process goes awry. Also, more insidiously, it allows us—from politicians who endorse the death penalty as a way of seeming tough on crime to jurors who sentence a criminal to death—to evade a sense of responsibility for taking another's life. To allow better- informed public debate on the issue, he argues, we should be able to see executions on television, which delivers ``unfiltered images'' and ``objectively record[s]'' what is before the cameras—claims that are astonishingly naive. The history of public executions, private executions, and related legislation and court cases (given, at some points, in extraneous detail) suggests that there is no way of reliably predicting our response to such telecasts. Some viewers are likely to be horrified, some outraged, and some entertained. Moreover, neither proponents nor opponents of the death penalty can be entirely certain such exposure will swell their ranks. Regardless, says Bessler, let people see what goes on. Bessler is convincing when he argues that we need more light on the subject of the death penalty, but he fails to make a case that the flickering TV screen will cast more light than heat. (illustrations, not seen) (For another study of the death penalty, see Mark Costanzo, Just Revenge: Costs and Consequences of the Death Penalty, p. 1428.)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1997

ISBN: 1-55553-322-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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