A father in the making who’s Spock-like as he hews to the intuitive, though the intuition is informed by Neruda and Emerson,...

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AMBIVALENCE, A LOVE STORY

PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE

Impending fatherhood takes publishing executive Donatich into an exploratory thicket of thoughts, concerns, and ideas.

In fluid and easy-reading prose, even though the author wears his erudition on his sleeve with apt quotes from a panoply of writers, Donatich, in a purely subjective and self-interrogative way, expresses his thoughts on becoming a father. “The predicaments of manhood” become immediately clear when Donatich gets fired from his job just eight hours after his wife gives birth (he’s now the director of Yale University Press; she’s the literary agent Betsy Lerner). Donatich gathers that “fatherhood calls for indulgence and dependence as well as discipline and providing” and that “the new father must learn to position himself next to his child’s day-to-day life, instead of its iconic markers.” This awareness sends him back in thought to the world of his immigrant family and to his own youth of peculiarities and cultishness: “imperial, competitive, proud, territorial, politically incorrect. . . very much like a religion. The very qualities that embarrassed me as a kid now seem a privilege.” Nothing here is mawkish, though, and Donatich is as hard on his upbringing as he is on his presumptions to the demands of fatherhood: “more complex than uncertainty, less adventurous than dissidence, ambivalence is a mode of being contrary that has neither the credulity of rebellion nor the alibi of cynicism.” After the miscarriages and the breakdowns, he writes convincingly of striving to be the brick, the stabilizer, the heater in the basement whose cycles provide warmth. Acceptance is bittersweet, “a deliberate tolerance for the dull ache of long-term loving.” But once he gets the first whiff of his daughter, all else but her becomes a moot point.

A father in the making who’s Spock-like as he hews to the intuitive, though the intuition is informed by Neruda and Emerson, Kirkegaard and Walter Benjamin, the tragicomic ironists of old Eastern Europe—and the sheer pleasure of Marvin Gaye.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-32653-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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