Readers with a memory for the time will appreciate some of Lerner’s dish, which involves other now-well-known radicals....

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SWORDS IN THE HANDS OF CHILDREN

REFLECTIONS OF AN AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY

A rueful—but not entirely so—account of years spent in the Students for Democratic Society and its militant offspring, the Weather Underground.

Lerner, now enjoying a quiet, small-town life with his husband, came to radicalism, like so many others of his generation, as a result of the Vietnam War. As an Antioch student in 1967, bookish and born into a liberal Jewish family, he fell in love with the shock tactics of guerrilla street theater. We might call it performance art today, but suffice it to say that setting a life-sized mannequin ablaze and then proclaiming that the conflagration is the suicide of an anti-war student is a good way to capture attention. “Nowadays,” he writes on a get-off-my-lawn note, “doing something like this on the campus of a liberal arts college might be found objectionable for not being preceded by a trigger warning.” From there, the author was on to the Weather Bureau, which evolved into the Weathermen and then the Weather Underground as its members, having gone on to rob banks and bomb draft boards, fled from the law. With admirable candor if not admirable behavior, Lerner positions himself as a revolutionary compromised by sure desire to keep out of trouble, willing to endorse the most drastic actions but not necessarily to get his hands dirty. As he writes, having gone underground all the same, “fear can be a disincentive to action. Shame, on the other hand, as I came to know well, can be a great motivator.” With a dawning awareness of himself as a gay man with other battles to fight (“in those days admitting to being gay was an enormous humiliation”), Lerner distanced himself from a movement that disintegrated in the mid-1970s.

Readers with a memory for the time will appreciate some of Lerner’s dish, which involves other now-well-known radicals. Those too young for it will find inspiration in his latter-day commitment to tiny acts in the face of Armageddon.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-682190-98-2

Page Count: 220

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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