THE VIEW FROM MT. MORRIS

A HARLEM BOYHOOD

Nonagenarian Sanford, who most recently memorialized his wife, Maggie (Maggie: A Love Story, 1993), recalls his childhood in Harlem in a memoir that is also a bittersweet apology to his father. In 1904, the year in which Sanford was born, Harlem was "still an out-of-the-way community on the island of Manhattan and almost suburban in its quiet, with frame houses—farmhouses some of them—standing alongside newcome neighbors of brick and yellowstone." He lovingly recalls the childhood landmarks of the place (Reid's Drug Store, Nick Stano Shoe Repair, and Bachrach's Ice Cream Parlor), as well as the apartment houses he lived in: the grand Gainsboro overlooking Mt. Morris Square when the family was flush, the much more modest Cabonak that became home after the Panic of 1907 bankrupted his father, and the apartment on West 117th Street, a place that reflected his grandfather's "unadorned life," where Sanford later lived with his grandparents. These recollections, interspersed with vignettes that anticipate his eventual meeting with Maggie, are secondary to the main theme, which is atonement for a thoughtless youthful act that irreparably hurt his father. Sanford's father was a Russian Jew who came to the US at the age of five. He became a lawyer, and though his practice was only intermittently successful, he was always the most affectionate and generous of fathers. Sanford's mother died when he was ten and thereafter Sanford and his father moved in with her parents. But when his father remarried in 1920, his grandfather and his mother's sister turned so against his stepmother that the boy refused to live with his father in his new home. This act of defiance ultimately broke up the marriage, and he understood too late the "sorrow of a wise father for a foolish and wilful son." The past in soft sepia tones, except for the sorrow Sanford caused, which still remains hard-edged and raw. Quiet but affecting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56980-018-9

Page Count: 231

Publisher: Barricade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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