Solid journalism that takes readers into cheerless, contested places they probably would not wish to see for themselves. An...

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WALLS

TRAVELS ALONG THE BARRICADES

Canadian journalist Di Cintio (Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey into the Heart of Iran, 2006, etc.) leads a whirlwind tour of the world, looking at the unlikely places where the human mania for erecting barriers has shown itself.

Take the Western Sahara, for example, all rippling sand dunes and the occasional oasis, formerly known as the Spanish Sahara. When Francisco Franco was dying, he sent up a casual middle finger to his anti-colonial foes by dividing the territory between Morocco and Mauritania, countries that promptly set about squabbling over it. The result? Thanks to endless hard work, a wall now extends into the desert that is “longer than the Great Wall of China”—though it’s not likely to last as long. The wall may make its Moroccan builders feel more secure, but people have a habit of getting over and around such structures, as Di Cintio notes when considering the walls that have gone up on the U.S.–Mexico border and between Israel and the Palestinian settlements. The walls are everywhere: In the last Spanish settlements on the African continent, Ceuta and Melilla, walls proclaim that here stands Europe, while the wall that divides India from Pakistan is permeable precisely because the people who live there aren’t as concerned with being separated as the politicians in Karachi and New Delhi are. Even in Canada, Di Cintio observes, which boasts the world’s longest unarmed border, obstacles divide the wealthy from the poor of Montreal: a structure known as “the Fence of Shame and the Wall of Shame—the same term used for the berm in the Western Sahara.”

Solid journalism that takes readers into cheerless, contested places they probably would not wish to see for themselves. An eye-opener.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59376-542-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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