A solid, rewarding book that could have been great with some judicious pruning.

READ REVIEW

NEW ATLANTIS

MUSICIANS BATTLE FOR THE SURVIVAL OF NEW ORLEANS

A detailed, angry look at the Crescent City’s imperiled players and traditions in Hurricane Katrina’s wake.

Veteran music journalist Swenson (The Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Guide, 1999, etc.), a New Orleans resident since 1999, surveys the havoc wreaked on his adopted hometown’s music scene after the so-called “federal flood” of August 2005. Already threatened by the erosion of southern Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, the city was flattened by the massive storm, which scattered its musicians around the country. Swenson details the natives’ taxing attempts to reinstate the indigenous musical culture, one of the country’s national treasures, within a shattered civic infrastructure. He interviews dozens of locals, ranging from vets like Dr. John, Dr. Michael White and Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers to young lions like Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his troubled cousin Glen David Andrews. The author excoriates the city fathers, whose thinly veiled racism led to post-Katrina opposition to the Mardi Gras Indian tribes and practitioners of funeral “second lining” (parading). Despite chaos and escalating violence, the music community courageously restored itself. However, after a description of the celebration of the New Orleans Saints’ uplifting 2010 Super Bowl victory, the book ends on a downbeat note with a rushed look at the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon pipeline disaster, which wracked the region anew. Readers won’t fault Swenson’s journalism, comprising on-the-ground observation and interviews, and he is at home with every pertinent musical genre, from jazz and funk to rock, gospel and hip-hop. But the lax organization and editing of the book often slow the narrative’s momentum and lose the thread of the tale. Chapters stutter to a halt with lengthy explications of artists’ careers, replete with unsifted quotes, or with endless descriptions of performances in clubs or on festival stages. These notebook-clearing exercises too frequently swamp Swenson’s powerfully affecting story of New Orleans’ monumental cultural tragedy and gutsy rebirth.

A solid, rewarding book that could have been great with some judicious pruning.

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-19-975452-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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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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