RUTH BENEDICT

This is a volume in the Leaders of Modern Anthropology series, and as such it is an introduction to Ruth Benedict as a thinker and a human being, not a full-scale biography. That came much closer to being provided (self-effacingly) by Dr. Mead in her 1959 selection from Benedict's journals, letters and professional writings, An Anthropologist at Work, freely drawn on here. But the current book is a fine presentation. Mead's portrait of her teacher, friend and colleague is restrainedly personal (it's the restraint of respect) and full of objective but warm professional appreciation. In describing Benedict's youth, Mead, her literary executor, lets Benedict largely speak for herself out of private diaries, providing only a delicate commentary on the sources of this woman's childhood sense of alienation, her compensatory inner life, her interest in poetry, her search for self. Mead does not get embroiled in the feminist issues that surround Benedict's early, and later soundly disillusioned, belief in Love as woman's supreme goal, but she does make it clear that this was a spirit that needed the expansion of passionate occupation, and finally found it in anthropology. She describes the evolution not only of Benedict's thought about "patterns of culture," but also her instinctive preference for work with data (as in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword) over direct fieldwork, her sense of social responsibility, and the obstacles her career encountered as a woman in the toils of academic bureaucracy. Mead's portrait is followed by a selection from the essential Benedict (on cultural configurations, Zuni mythology, primitive freedom, Japanese self-discipline) which reveal her as lucid, seminal, humane, and very much the writer she always wanted to be.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1974

ISBN: 0231035209

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1974

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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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