Chockablock with examples and in-depth analysis, this can be savored by academics and lay readers alike.

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THE USE AND ABUSE OF LITERATURE

In a cogent study, Shakespeare expert Garber (Visual and Environmental Studies/Harvard Univ.; Shakespeare and Modern Culture, 2008, etc.) wonders: Why read literature?

The ancient debate rages on: What is the purpose of literature? Does reading make us better citizens, or is literature’s overall meaninglessness its greatest purpose? And what is literature anyway? Garber sifts through the salient arguments by writers over the centuries—including, among dozens of others, Plato, Horace, Shakespeare, Wilde, Marx and Václev Havel—to get at the deep-seated controversy involving literature’s contribution to human edification. The author ultimately champions a work’s sheer ability to get a rise out of the reader, to evoke questions and prompt risky, slippery, active responses. She looks at the so-called “canon” and how it has changed over time, not only in terms of who is included (e.g., the changing fortune of John Donne), but what passes for worthy literature—a ballad, a diary, a sexy novel like Lolita? Garber considers whether the study of literature actually kills the pleasure of reading for the ordinary reader, how reading a poem closely can relay the startling inspiration experienced by the author (and maybe change the world), how a work withstands the scrutiny of time (“literature is always contemporary because it is read by contemporary readers”) and whether it matters that a work purporting to be “real” (such as a biography that slips into literary projection) turns out to be pure fiction. Finally, the author attempts a valiant resurrection of the well-turned metaphor—the “imaginative leaps” that actually render meaning—and the not-terribly-reassuring conclusion that the process of reading simply defies closure: “never ending, always opening outward into another scene.”

Chockablock with examples and in-depth analysis, this can be savored by academics and lay readers alike.

Pub Date: March 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-42434-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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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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