WRITING

In this very slender volume, Duras shares with us the writer’s preoccupations with the distance between life and writing, and the contradiction between writing and silence. Winner of the 1984 Prix Goncourt for her novel The Lover, Duras died in 1996. She is without a doubt one of this century’s great literary figures. But that haunting quality, the characteristically slow and deliberate language of her novels, translates less well when her subject is a kind of confessional of her life and work. The five short chapters that make up Writing circle around Duras’s way into and out of the world. Her bare prose casts that same silence she considers fundamental to any writer: It is —the price one pays for having dared go out and scream.” At this point, one chooses to either get lost in her fantasy or bow out, because much of Duras’s prose begs the point with characteristic vagueness. Whether sitting alone considering the death of a fly, or trying to capture the entire life of a young pilot in the moment of his death, Duras is convinced that the “death of that fly has become this displacement of literature” and that writing it “renders it inaccessible.” What remains is the nakedness of writing itself, and Duras hones this point into the ground. Strangely, the most poignant image of the creative act according to Duras comes in her final chapter, “The Painting Exhibition,” where she describes the painter at work. “We leave him to his misfortune, to that infernal obligation that outstrips any commentary, any metaphor . . . to his own story . . . struggling in the continent of silence.” Duras’s theory of the written word would rob her life’s work of the magic she has so masterfully created over a lifetime. Rereading The Lover might be the only antidote to so much discomfort.

Pub Date: May 30, 1998

ISBN: 1-57129-053-2

Page Count: 98

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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