Studded with intriguing moments but not as entertaining as Wood’s previous travelogues. Despite moments of hospitality and...

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AN ARABIAN JOURNEY

ONE MAN'S QUEST THROUGH THE HEART OF THE MIDDLE EAST

A British adventure traveler’s journey through the tumultuous lands of the Middle East.

A former officer in the British Parachute Regiment who has spent time in the Middle East on and off since his university days in the early 2000s, Wood (Walking the Americas: 1,800 Miles, Eight Countries, and One Incredible Journey from Mexico to Colombia, 2018, etc.) has dedicated his life to travel as a writer and “occasional photojournalist.” Here, the author chronicles his journey from September 2017 through spring 2018, painting a vivid yet troubling portrait of the fraught land and people of the region. Tracing the “fault-lines of the geopolitical arena,” he began his journey in war-torn northern Syria, following the course of the Tigris River, where he was roughly guided into active fighting in Iraq by Amar, a brusque, war-embittered undercover operative. As the author made his dangerous journey east, he writes, the “normalization of violence…made the place so bizarre, terrifying and alluring at the same time.” In the Gulf states, Wood witnessed how oil changed everything for each nation, allowing them power on the world stage yet miring them deeply in a chasm of wealth discrepancy, mainly between Arab haves and migrant have-nots. (The author barely mentions the rampant sexism and misogyny.) After an arduous camel ride through the Empty Quarter of Oman, Wood ascended the imposing Dhofar ridge, skirted the perilous civil war of Yemen, and entered the Somali pirate waters of the Gulf of Arden. Then he traveled through the secretive police state of Saudi Arabia, the serene desert of Jordan, the devastated West Bank, and, finally, the relative stability of Lebanon. Sadly, the author found that the ancient nomadic tribes have coalesced into a modern "affiliation of blood gangs,” locked in bitter wars against each other, corrupted by oil, and fractured by their separate brands of identity.

Studded with intriguing moments but not as entertaining as Wood’s previous travelogues. Despite moments of hospitality and friendship, this seasoned traveler experienced a crushing loss of innocence on a trip that was less a joyful journey than a kind of penance.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4732-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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