THE LONG-WINDED LADY

NOTES FROM THE NEW YORKER

Brennan’s luminous writings graced the New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” section for nearly 30 years. Dating mostly from the 1960s, these “moments of recognition,” as she called them, are delicately crafted summonings of a New York City that has mostly disappeared. Her sketches of life in Times Square and Greenwich Village ran under Brennan’s “Long-Winded Lady” pseudonym from 1954 to 1981. No other writer has so subtly or effectively captured “the ordinary ways” of the city’s denizens. Eavesdropping in restaurants, in bars, and on street corners, Brennan illuminated the human condition with deceptive simplicity. Observing two “opulently shaped girls” at the Adams Restaurant on West 48th St., she notes, “Their walk was sedate, as it might well be . . . their dresses did all the work.” Watching a bejeweled, overdressed woman breakfasting at the Plaza, Brennan wonders, —Was she splendidly unselfconscious, or was she ridiculous? I didn’t know. I was tired of her.” She mentions, in passing, the apartments she kept, uptown and downtown, over the years, and decries the coming of the 1960s “ogre called office space” that displaced townhouses and brownstones on the avenues she knew so well. Whether relating a clumsy encounter on the subway or etching a street scene, Brennan wrote extraordinary sentences such as this one, describing Washington Square at 6 a.m. following a night of rain: “The air was mild and fresh, and shone with a faint unsteadiness that was exactly like the unsteadiness of color inside a seashell.” Nine previously uncollected pieces are included here, in addition to the 47 that appeared in the book’s 1969 edition. Brennan exemplifies what the old New Yorker was all about.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-395-89363-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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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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