THE BODY'S EDGE

OUR CULTURAL OBSESSION WITH SKIN

From the stratum corneum to the hypodermis, an engrossing, warts-and-all census of the body's largest organ. Making up nearly 15 percent of our body mass, the skin protects us, defines us; it even reflects our internal state of health. For as LappÇ (Chemical Deception, 1991, etc.), the director of the Center for Ethics and Toxic Substances (Gualala, Calif.), notes, it is the ``border between wellness and dysfunction.'' Surprisingly enough, for something so visible and apparently simple, much about the skin remains unknown. It may have its own primitive version of an immune system. The colonies of fungi and bacteria that swarm over its surface may perform important symbiotic functions for the host. Humans are one of the few animals without significant body hair, but the evolutionary reasons for this are not understood. LappÇ's own theory is that it was a way to free humans from the onerous, time-consuming chore of grooming themselves in search of lice, mites, etc. Of course, given that Americans spend six to ten percent of their disposable income on cosmetic products (many of which are completely ineffectual), the actual time saved may be minimal. Certainly, without skin, complex life forms could not have evolved. Unfortunately, complex life forms have a bad record of looking after their skin. In the Middle Ages, arsenic was popularly used as a rouge, while lead powder was employed as a whitener. More recently, despite clear experimental findings of its potential hazards, according to LappÇ, silicone was widely used in cosmetic surgery. LappÇ also bluntly chronicles the many dangers of sun exposure (current suntan lotions may not block certain hazardous rays), which we ignore at our peril as the ozone layer thins. LappÇ's account is not as well organized and structured as it should be, and he occasionally lapses into convoluted science- speak. But he has succeeded in taking a subject that usually receives only skin-deep attention and making it both engaging and provocative.

Pub Date: June 4, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4208-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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