THE MIDDLE GATE

AN HUNGARIAN JEWISH BOYHOOD

A didactic account of the author's first year of Talmud study, originally published in Hungarian in 1927 and posthumously translated. Born Joseph Klein in 1882 in the small Hungarian village of Pata, Patai (who renamed himself after his hometown) was raised in the strictly Orthodox Jewish tradition. He wore sidelocks and fringed garments, observed all the rituals, and studied the Talmud in cheder (Hebrew school) before he ever learned to read Hungarian. This study captivated him. In his chronology of a year in and out of cheder, Patai intersperses idealized memories of learning with starry-eyed recollections of Jewish life in Hungary at the end of the 19th century. He remembers the thrill of first being allowed to look into the large volume of the Talmud and then finding out what lay within: the debates, the stories, the glory, the riches of his Jewish ancestors. He glosses over the poverty and anti-Semitism that his family endured—for Patai, everything else was obscured by his passion for the magnificent old text. He tries to impress the reader with the wonder of the Talmud by describing his own awe, supplying numerous illustrations from the text itself, and telling stories of the sages with examples of their erudition, wisdom, and piety. All of this, however eloquently expressed, only gives the reader the briefest glimpse of what Patai feels for the Talmud. The effect is not so much emotional as instructional: Seen in the context provided by the author's son, Raphael Patai (The Jewish Alchemists, p. 533, etc.), in his biographical introduction to the volume, this memoir is but one of many efforts to reacquaint a nation with what Patai perceived to be its dying culture. In this, the poet, author, and editor typifies the Eastern European Haskalah, or Jewish Renaissance, which sought to revive the golden age of Judaism by recovering its heroic past. A highly romanticized paean to the Jewish tradition of learning.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8276-0517-X

Page Count: 140

Publisher: N/A

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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