Both a beguiling appreciation of and a fascinating tour through faery, this offers riches aplenty for lovers of fantasy...

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ONCE UPON A TIME

A SHORT HISTORY OF FAIRY TALE

This literary and cultural history of our engagement with, mostly, European fairy tales may be short, but it is far from slight.

Perhaps best known for her seminal From the Beast to the Blonde (1995), a feminist reading of several European fairy tales, Warner (Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights, 2012, etc.) presents a thoughtful, discursive and often personal survey of how “fairy tale” has expressed itself over the centuries. She treats her subject as something of a literary force in itself rather than a collection of discrete stories, continuously emphasizing how deeply embedded it is in Western culture. Her exploration ranges far and wide in discerning its origins and influences, from the obvious—the Grimms, Charles Perrault, Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, Hans Christian Andersen, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Disney—to the less so: the Celtic Mabinogion, Shakespeare, Jane Eyre, Robert Bly and Hayao Miyazaki. Warner touches on commentators as well, discussing the ways such theoreticians as Vladimir Propp, Bruno Bettelheim and Jack Zipes have influenced how we understand fairy tale. This makes for an undeniably dense read, and it is not for beginners, as it presumes some familiarity and requires readers to navigate across centuries, forms and even media. (The maddening design asks readers to physically jump around the book to see illustrations referenced in the text. Readers must decide either to leave Warner’s elegant prose and travel to the front of the book for a page number before finding the illustration itself or to do without.) Although the author’s erudition is on display on every page, this is no starchy academic text; she frequently inserts her own trenchant opinions, as when she declares that Bettelheim “enrages me as he has done many other lovers of fairy tales,” even though she “learned a huge amount from [him].”

Both a beguiling appreciation of and a fascinating tour through faery, this offers riches aplenty for lovers of fantasy fiction, children’s literature and the tales themselves.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0198718659

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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