A triumph—it’s hard to imagine anyone else ever again getting quite this close to the Brontës.

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THE BRONTËS

WILD GENIUS ON THE MOORS: THE STORY OF THREE SISTERS

A massive, almost certainly definitive biography that both demystifies and restores one of England’s most legendary literary families.

In this updated, entirely revised version of her 1994 biography, Barker (Conquest: The English Kingdom of France, 1417-1450, 2012, etc.) completely submerges herself in the world of her subjects, delivering a rich, illuminating group portrait of the real and imaginative lives of a family of writers: the father, Patrick Brontë, a Church of England parson, and his children: Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their legendary if lesser-known brother Branwell, a poet and painter. (Two other children died young.) Barker knows the Brontës and their 19th-century world on an intimate basis, almost as if she breathes the clammy air of the Haworth parsonage where they lived. She knows what they read and how they imagined. Barker pays especially close attention to the contemporary journalism, which had a demonstrable impact on the Brontës' own fantasy worlds of Angria and Gondal. The Brontës would, in turn, become myths themselves. Indeed, part of Barker’s ambition is to save the family from its legend. Her particular nemesis is the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, whose 1857 classic The Life of Charlotte Brontë, writes Barker, whitewashed Charlotte’s life, ignored or misread the lives of her siblings and depicted Patrick as a cranky, eccentric tyrant. Barker sees Charlotte as a selfish, manipulative literary genius; Patrick, the book’s major figure, is convincingly rendered as a dominant but loving father and a pioneer of liberal reform. While not a critical biography, Barker doggedly traces the inspiration of all the novels and, especially in Charlotte's case, astutely matches fiction to fact.

A triumph—it’s hard to imagine anyone else ever again getting quite this close to the Brontës.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60598-365-3

Page Count: 1184

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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