SMOKE OVER BIRKENAU

As its survivors die, so too will the stream of Holocaust testimony. Though narrowing, the trickle continues. This Italian testament has both polish and poetry and strong images of suffering barely borne, but more indelibly it serves as a particular focus into the specially female hell of the camps, what made the woman prisoner different from the man. Displaced, brutalized, sick, dying, the women wretches of Millu's Birkenau lager are as much buoyed as cast down by what remains of their sentimental or family relations: a husband or lover or son perhaps still alive across the fence in the men's camp, Auschwitz; a hidden pregnancy; a sister unforgivably become a whore in the camp's brothel. There is no fake sisterhood or sorority—if anything, the internecine competition is fiercely vocal, sexually cynical—but there is shared attention to the pain of the heart as well as to the body and spirit: These are prisoners who might give over their whole meager ration of daily bread to a camp fortuneteller in hopes of hearing how a loved one fares. The storylike chapters have a professional, even on occasion a melodramatic feel, somewhat disconcerting; but Millu's writerliness is also able to deliver the unforgettable passage from which the book takes its title: ``I remember what Jeanette used to say, watching the dense spirals rise from the crematoria and trail across the sky: the black curls were the souls of the lager's old- timers marching in orderly rows of five toward the kingdom of the merciful God, while the wispy little white curls that drifted and vanished waywardly, the merest puffs, were the souls of children and newcomers who had yet to learn discipline.''

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-0276-0398-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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