Not every book offers concrete advice, but Donegan’s does. Two pieces of it, for that matter: (1) Never work in a used car...

READ REVIEW

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

A SMOOTH-RUNNING, LOW-MILEAGE, BEST-PRICED AMERICAN ADVENTURE

The used-car lot with funnyman Donegan (No News at Throat Lake, 2000, etc.) and his amusing/depressing take on the business that has come to epitomize sleaze.

“Call me a miserable Scottish git but subconsciously I have long believed that life wasn’t meant to be perfect,” says Donegan, and he acts on that notion by foregoing a Silicon Valley job to sell used cars instead. In what amounts to one anecdote after another about how he amassed the tricks of the trade, he explains to readers how he became an asphalt warrior at Orchard Pre-Owned Autos. Though a long toss from being a car guy, he learns how to pick targets—couples with kids, fat people, Japanese—and scorn the time-wasters: single women and anyone from the subcontinent, China, or Europe. His coworkers offer advice and encouragement: be friendly, don’t be friendly, get rid of the ugly shit, or “selling cars is like fishing.” Donegan has a tendency to press his jokes on his readers much the way salesmen press their lemons on the unsuspecting: “buying a car at Orchard was like having a bit part as a victim in Jaws,” or “she took a test drive at a steady 50 mph, appearing not to notice there was a Metallica concert taking place where the engine should be.” But he also shows some ethics. He abhors the money culture of Silicon Valley and is tempted to explain to a computer executive why he sells cars: “Because it means I don’t have to sit in an office with small-minded, money-obsessed bores like you everyday.” And when, in the end, the phony smiles and petty scams reach critical mass for him, he quits.

Not every book offers concrete advice, but Donegan’s does. Two pieces of it, for that matter: (1) Never work in a used car lot if you cherish your soul, and (2) never buy a used car without a certified mechanic at one elbow and a bunko adviser on the other.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-671-78583-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more