As always, Oates is curious, probing, and memorably startling.



Another collection of sparkling literary essays from the prolific author of both fiction and nonfiction.

Culled from her literary reviews in the New York Review of Books, the Kenyon Review, and other venues, these short essays probe the reasons we continue to read, both classics and contemporary works, and—despite the torture—write. Titling her collection after a smoldering line by Emily Dickinson, Oates (Humanities/Princeton Univ.; The Man Without a Shadow, 2016, etc.) finds enormous inspiration (and passionate literary obsession) in pursuing the answer to the age-old question, why do I write? In her initial essay, “Is the Uninspired Life Worth Living?” which establishes cohesion to the collection, she finds particular resonance with writers who grasp the essential subversive quality of literature—poets are often seized by a force beyond their control, being not in their “right mind,” and “out of [their] senses,” as Plato elucidates in Ion. (Poets, of course, were banned from the Republic because they could not conform to the authority of the state.) “Inspired” is akin to being “haunted” or “captivated,” and in these far-ranging, occasionally didactic essays, Oates delights in authors who have been selectively obsessed and captivated by their material: Rebecca Mead by Middlemarch; Claire Tomalin by Charles Dickens; Julian Barnes harnessing “catastrophe into art” while writing of the death of his wife of 30 years in Levels of Life. Always eclectic, Oates also includes essays on the visionary detective fiction of Derek Raymond; Wild West fabler Larry McMurtry; Louise Erdrich’s North Dakota novels, which Oates compares to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County cycle; and, most sensitively, Jeanette Winterson’s memoir of coming out to her North England Pentecostal mother. Oates ends with a strange visit to San Quentin prison with a group of female graduate students—not to teach, however, but to feel shocked by the experience.

As always, Oates is curious, probing, and memorably startling.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-256450-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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