A funny, affecting, but ultimately overlong remembrance of struggle and growth.

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A Lullaby of Flies

In this debut memoir, Presa reflects on a life that included bulimia, homelessness, military service, motherhood, and complicated love.

The author says she struggled with her weight from a young age and developed crippling social anxiety that kept her from forging friendships. When she discovered bulimia at age 14, it seemed like an answer to her problems: she could continue to find solace in food, she thought, but avoid the weight that caused her to be ostracized. However, the sickness would become a lasting problem in her life, further complicated by the suicide of her mother when she was 15. After the author fled her deteriorating family, her life became a gritty procession of nights in tents, cars, and even caves. The cold and discomfort were still preferable, she says, to staying at her father’s house with her antagonistic stepmother. She impulsively decided to join the Air Force at age 19 after news footage from Hurricane Katrina convinced her to take a more active role in society. At 21, she married a man in the Air Force stationed in South Korea whom she’d known for four months “and had seen in person only a handful of times” and later had a child with him. In the Air Force, she found structure, friendship, and self-esteem, but she still made plenty of mistakes in life. Hurtling from one tenuous situation to the next, she had to discover the strength to save her own life. Overall, Presa is a talented writer, and with her punchy, maximalist prose style, she engulfs the reader in a sea of sharp observations and sardonic humor. For example, she begins her chapter about her Air Force basic-training experience with the line, “Nestled amongst the sobs and moans of misery of others, I smiled.” Unfortunately, though, this same maximalism extends to the excessive length of the memoir; at 588 pages, it’s twice as long as it should have been. Greater concision and more selectivity when choosing among her memories might have made for a better-paced and ultimately more compelling read.

A funny, affecting, but ultimately overlong remembrance of struggle and growth.

Pub Date: April 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5327-4189-0

Page Count: 620

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 14, 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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