A charming, informative, and creative memoir.

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WE ARE THE LAND

IRELAND

From the Leslie's Travel Companion, Ireland series , Vol. 1

Lee (Sacred Space, Pine Hollow, 2014) recounts her first trip to Ireland in search of ancestral roots. 

The author writes that she’d always been under the impression that she was of Scottish, Scotch-Irish, and English descent—a familial narrative that turned out to be inaccurate. She discovered that all four of her maternal grandmother’s grandparents were Irish, and a DNA test confirmed Lee’s Irish lineage, which stretched back thousands of years. Eager to unearth a genealogical line that her relatives suppressed “out of shame at being at the bottom of the cultural heap in anglophile America,” Lee organized a trip to Ireland with her two sisters, Liz and Jennie, and her cousin Josie. The four of them meet in the town of Lahinch in County Clare on the western coast of the country, and they set off on an exploration of their ancient homeland and on a search for distant cousins. Lee’s account eclectically and charmingly leaps from the personal to the historical, provocatively suggesting that the two can’t always be neatly separated. She provides a synoptic but companionably readable history of Ireland along the way, touching on its earliest inhabitants, its history of conflict, and the famine that ravaged its people in the 19th century. She also supplies a running commentary on its remarkably diverse culture, including its love of language and its quintessential cuisine, and she offers quirky, parenthetical sidebars, such as a note on the “high incidence of red hair in Ireland.” Lee’s ambitious book is brimming with photographs; hand-drawn art, including maps and notable visual spectacles; and original poetry. Her lucid prose often achieves a delightful, pensive elegance: “It’s a strange phenomenon to emotionally attach oneself to a name and a place as I had, as if mystical filaments float out of the ground to the soul longing for connection.” Her research is impressively rigorous, and she tackles her trip with scrupulous zeal. The remembrance concludes with an appendix that seems designed to help first-time Ireland visitors, but it’s likely to be more helpful as a spur to future research; her own travel experience is likely too personally idiosyncratic for others to successfully emulate. Much of the memoir has an intimately confessional feel; for instance, the author candidly admits that she’s “afraid to be rejected as an outsider in Ireland” and anxious that the people of her newly discovered homeland won’t reciprocate her affections. Her memoir becomes a searching philosophical treatise on what it means for members of a diaspora to form a cultural identity: “Non-natives in America, Australia, and other long-time displaced peoples are characterized by this cultural amnesia. We are separated from our ancestral story as unnaturally as a shadow is separated from its body.” The narrative can be a touch disjointed, as the author moves quickly, and sometimes jarringly, from historical lessons to personal travel chronicles to family genealogy. However, Lee’s style is ultimately more eccentric than scattered, and her kaleidoscopic approach properly reflects her own arc of self-discovery. 

A charming, informative, and creative memoir.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9915022-4-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Leslie Lee Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2019

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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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