A sobering and ultimately effective personal manifesto for changing American child custody procedures.

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Accidental Dad

STRUGGLES UNMARRIED MEN FACE WHEN ENTERING FATHERHOOD

A memoir offers a case for altering how U.S. courts view single fathers.

The latest book from McDowell (The Tools You Need to Be Successful, 2010), a mixture of personal anecdotes and social study, examines the world of single fathers in American society and in the U.S. legal system. Both are heavily freighted in favor of mothers in any kind of custody disagreement. The author takes up the cause of the “accidental dad,” single fathers caught up in a legal bureaucracy that seldom looks on them with sympathy and, in an overwhelming number of cases, ignores their claims for caregiving or even simple access to their own children. McDowell, himself the child of a fatherless home after the death of his dad, spent seven years battling in court to gain custody of his son, and his book recounts his turmoil and triumphs with a great deal of pathos. He buttresses his account with some statistics about the legal system’s bias against fathers, but he’s also willing to indulge in melodrama to heighten his point, portraying Missy, the mother of his son, as the manipulative and vengeful villain of the story. The purpose of his book, he writes, is to help fathers who are seeking to “gain or improve” their custody arrangements. He admits that many aspects of his tale aren’t encouraging; his own situation, filled equally with good intentions and a criminal record, often functions as a worst-case scenario. The powerful book is unsentimentally straightforward (“When my son was younger, I refused to marry his mom, so she automatically got custody,” he writes at one point. “What’s wrong with this picture?”). But it’s simultaneously very successful in engaging the reader’s emotions as the narrative follows McDowell through the dramatic twists and turns in his quest to gain full custody of his son. This heartfelt emotional content is supplemented by hard-won practical advice on navigating the U.S. court system.

A sobering and ultimately effective personal manifesto for changing American child custody procedures.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5069-0126-8

Page Count: 170

Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2016

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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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