Philosophy and history of American background music by pop- culture historian Lanza (Fragile Geometry, 1991—not reviewed). Lanza focuses on a variety of different types of what he calls ``moodsong,'' from commercial Muzak through the sugary strings of Mantovani and the purling choruses of Ray Coniff on to '80s ``new age'' sounds. He is unabashed in his admiration for all of these styles, asserting that they are ``in many respects, aesthetically superior to all other musical forms.'' He traces the history of so- called ``functional music'' to the work of avant-garde artists of the early 20th century such as Erik Satie, who sought to wed art with the innovations of the machine age, and early heroes include Muzak's inventor/originator, General George Owen Squier, who studied the effect of music on productivity and mood. Lanza is most interesting in analyzing the psychology of Muzak programming, showing how the company developed a schedule based on the time of day, so that, for example, ``the breakfast hours offered cheery sunrise melodies and caffeinated rhythms.'' The book's midsection is a listener's guide to the golden age of easy listening, with descriptions of cocktail-conductor Jackie Gleason, the bubbly champagne music of Lawrence Welk, and the swooning voices of the Anita Kerr singers. In closing, Lanza addresses philosophical issues in Muzak; the possible evil effects of background music; the phenomena of '70s ``lite'' music and ``metarock''; and the adaptation of rock songs to the Muzak aesthetic. Still, however mightily he may argue that ``elevator music...is essentially a distillation of the happiness that modern technology has promised,'' Lanza fails to convince that the ``easy listening'' creators were really more than schlockmeisters with a commercial bent. (Eight pages of b&w photos—not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-10540-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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.


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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