Despite its flaws, this book may be useful for families affected by porphyria and may interest others frustrated by flawed...

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Purple Canary

THE GIRL WHO WAS ALLERGIC TO SCHOOL

A mother helps her daughter cope with a rare disease in this memoir.

Debut author Gould describes her yearslong quest to help her adopted daughter, Jill, who was afflicted with a rare genetic disorder called acute intermittent porphyria starting at age 11. Its symptoms include severe diarrhea, convulsions, and fainting; this caused problems at Jill’s Connecticut school, including frequent absences and trips to the hospital as well as bullying by other students. School officials were largely unsympathetic, the author says, even accusing Jill of being an “attention-seeking faker.” Gould also says that some doctors initially misdiagnosed the affliction, including one who decided that the girl suffered from bipolar disorder. After a genetic test linked Jill to AIP, she received infusions of a blood factor called heme, which seemed to help. But problems persisted, especially at school, leading Gould to believe that “a building filled with toxic chemicals and toxic people”—cleaners, wet erasers, and stress-inducing bullies—were triggering her daughter’s attacks. Tutoring and transfers to other schools didn’t solve the problem, however, although sometimes Jill did improve a bit. By the end of this sad tale, though, Jill is a suicidal heroin addict. In addition to her daughter’s tragic story, Gould also presents some AIP research and websites as well as some of Jill’s own first-person observations. Overall, this book offers a troubling account, and its broadest contribution is how it highlights the difficulties that people with unusual problems face in the American public school and health care systems. Although the author doesn’t prove that toxins at school triggered her daughter’s attacks, she makes some credible assertions. Unfortunately, she bogs the narrative down with too much description of bullying and “ridiculous middle school drama,” and her fondness for acronyms is distracting: “the PPT to set the IEP would be held at KPS.” The prose shows occasional flair, as when Gould describes when a baby Jill “plopped forward like a folded taco.” However, it sometimes suffers from clichés and repetition; for example, the author’s “head bells” always seem to be “clanging” or “jangling,” and people read one another “the riot act” more than once.

Despite its flaws, this book may be useful for families affected by porphyria and may interest others frustrated by flawed education and medical systems in the United States.

Pub Date: June 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-988186-99-3

Page Count: 358

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016

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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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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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