An effortless, genial assemblage of vignettes.

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BEDTIME VIGNETTES

An eclectic collection of short essays delivers cultural analysis. 

Debut author Agarwal has always been an avid reader, and each evening looks forward to a good book as an “opiate for sound sleep.” Likewise, he intends this compilation of brief meditations to be diverting, but also “of relevance for all times.” The breadth of the topics he addresses is eccentrically broad, and the work as a whole is intellectually peripatetic. In some chapters, he fixes his eye on linguistic matters; for example, there are free-wheeling discussions of the words “if,” “but,” and “stealing” as well as the possibility that language is infested by chauvinism. He considers the color white as a cultural symbol of “purity, beauty, and chastity.” In an essay entitled “The Avocation of Carping,” Agarwal considers the apparently profound human inclination to complain. For the most part, the author avoids explicitly political issues, but in “The Bureaucratic Juggernaut,” he assesses the inefficiency and capriciousness of unwieldy organizational structures and proposes a series of cures. In punchy and charming prose, Agarwal permits his analytical gaze to roam freely in search of peculiar points of observation—he composes a kind of paean to the month of May. Not all of the author’s musings are equally original—in one, he opposes the “the vituperations of a scolding, carping and brawling wife” to a “hen-pecked husband.” In another, he regurgitates a shopworn caricature: “If the way to a man’s heart, according to an old axiom, lies in appeasing his taste buds, that to a woman’s is through the satiation of her shopping instinct.” In addition, some of the essays combine an all-too-quotidian subject matter with a lecturing tone—the author provides pages of bullet-pointed counsel regarding traffic safety. Agarwal’s intended aims are fairly modest: “The whole treatment is intended to entertain the reader, and not cause him the fatigue of close attention.” For the most part, he hits his own mark and produces an amiably easy series of largely disconnected reflections. 

An effortless, genial assemblage of vignettes. 

Pub Date: July 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4828-2054-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: PartridgeIndia

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 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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