Gonzales travels where few people might want to go, and he brings back wondrous tales. This is more diffuse than his...

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HOUSE OF PAIN

NEW AND SELECTED ESSAYS

Journalist and novelist Gonzales (Lucy, 2010) gathers scattered essays that speak to his current interest as an observer of the human capacity to endure.

The author has expressed that interest in books such as Deep Survival (2003) and Surviving Survival (2012), which make one wonder how our species has lasted as long as it has. “In a sense,” he writes, “my career as a writer has been a long quest for…authenticity. And these essays are a product of that quest.” In the opening essay, Gonzales turns his attention to the federal prison at Marion, Ill., a place that will make readers wonder how anyone survives incarceration—especially among the criminals who are tucked away for safekeeping in this “modern-day replacement for Alcatraz.” It might be enough to lament the fate of those whom society has condemned, but Gonzales digs deeper, making it clear that there is good reason for such facilities but also noting a takeaway: Act tough enough without actually killing or maiming someone, and “the guards finally back off and leave you alone.” That’s good to know, just as it’s good to know how to navigate one’s way around another kind of prison, a mental hospital, which lends Gonzales a poignant closing image: that of inmates “standing in the rain, trying to figure out the right thing to do.” In between, Gonzales visits impenetrable swamps, tightrope walkers, oil rigs, airplane landing strips on the edge of the Arctic Ocean and his own family history—including that adventure that no one wants to have: a bout with cancer.

Gonzales travels where few people might want to go, and he brings back wondrous tales. This is more diffuse than his previous books, but it will be a pleasure for his admirers.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55728-999-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Univ. of Arkansas

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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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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