This has been done better by others, but it’s never a bad thing to encourage reading and writing.



Do we really need another book on writing? Maybe.

Edmundson (English/Univ. of Virginia; Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals, 2015, etc.) previously published Why Teach? and Why Read? His latest is as much about reading as writing. He covers some “lightly drawn” autobiographical material and a little how-to (he’s especially good on the importance of a writer finding his/her voice), and he offers plenty of encouragement. This book is very much a pep talk. The author is an optimistic, enthusiastic cheerleader on the sideline, encouraging us to sit down and try. Along the way, he enlists as co-cheerers other writers, mostly the older, usual suspects: Shelley, Byron, Austen, Melville, Joyce. But he also manages to recruit Roth and Kerouac and others. Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections “rang the bell,” while David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest “slammed down the hammer.” Edmundson warns budding authors: it’s lonely, it’s hard, and it can be depressing, but it’s “one of the best acts a human being can turn his hand to.” It brings pleasure and its own rewards, and it can be a “spiritual discipline” like meditation or even prayer. The author tends to get repetitive during the course of the book, repeating some version of the idea that “writing is about writing.” Publication isn’t the goal; writing is: “writing is thinking; thinking is writing.” Try writing a memoir; it’s the “genre of our moment.” Writers must read (a lot) and be willing to revise (a lot). In this and other areas, Edmundson sounds like Stephen King. Even though his own books have been fairly well-received, he’s pretty harsh on book reviewers. Those critics who are wannabe writers will sometimes “clasp your book in their hands, embrace it, and then slap you across the face.”

This has been done better by others, but it’s never a bad thing to encourage reading and writing.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-305-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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