GLAD TIDINGS

A FRIENDSHIP IN LETTERS

When the editor and John Cheever met in the service in 1943- -they were both stationed in Queens—Cheever was already well along in his career as a short-story writer. For the next four decades, until Cheever's death in 1982, the two maintained a correspondence that is, not surprisingly, lopsided in quality. An amiable hack writer, Weaver intersperses among Cheever's 234 letters lots of chatty and curious material, much of it having little to do with Cheever. He quotes from his own journals and his wife's diaries, and the result is a true literary curiosity—an indulgence that can be as charming as it is exasperating. The meatiest letters from Cheever seem familiar from son Ben Cheever's earlier selection (1988), though Weaver never tells us exactly how many here are repeats. Nor does he explain his use of ellipses: When are they part of the letter and when do they indicate elisions by Weaver? In any case, Cheever's letters include vintage descriptions of domestic details; of chronic boozing; and of endless money problems. Cheever's humor at his own expense is always ingratiating, and his travel reports equal details in his fiction. All in all, though, both writers avoid being too serious, and live down to Cheever's own description of a good letter: It ``should be like a daisy in the field, charming for a moment, not much to smell, soon dead.'' A running joke about the ``wrinkled crotch'' in Cheever's pants grows tiresome, and suggests how little of substance the two friends discussed in their letters. Occasional brilliant passages by Cheever make up for Weaver's detailed brushes with fame. An oddity of interest only to Cheever fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-016957-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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