Those interested in the modern television landscape should turn to Bill Carter’s Desperate Networks (2006), a fine work of...

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NOT REMOTELY CONTROLLED

NOTES ON TELEVISION

Hit-and-mostly-miss collection of 50-plus New Republic essays over-intellectualizing the boob tube’s not particularly intellectual output.

As the magazine’s television reporter from 2003 to 2006, Siegel (Falling Upwards, 2006, etc.) was paid to spend hours parked in front of the TV (watching cop shows, game shows, made-for-TV movies, you name it), then preach about their virtues, or lack thereof. Many of the programs the New Republic asked Siegel to dissect—e.g., Joey, The O.C., Deal or No Deal—do not merit the author’s time or energy, as the shows are A) mindless entertainment and B) will be soon forgotten. Another problem with this anthology is that Siegel spends too much brainpower on product that’s created strictly as escapism. Writing about the goofy but entertaining food-as-sport show Iron Chef America, he notes that, “In Soviet Russia, revolution, counterrevolution, endurance, and dissent all were hatched in the kitchen.” He might be right, but the pronouncement is misplaced and off-putting. Collection highlights include thoughtful articles on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras and Deadwood, providing a spotlight on shows that justify sharp analysis.

Those interested in the modern television landscape should turn to Bill Carter’s Desperate Networks (2006), a fine work of straight-up journalism that offers critical insight into today’s television scene—and Carter wasn’t even trying.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-465-07810-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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