Serenely calibrated, pleasant and heartfelt.

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THE RIVER QUEEN

A MEMOIR

Rambling author Morris (Revenge, 2004, etc.) hires a houseboat and captain to take her down the Mississippi on the trail of Mark Twain and the father she missed.

Restless in middle age, with a newly empty Brooklyn nest (daughter Kate had recently left for college), Morris decided it was time to shake her anxiety and prescription drugs for a travel adventure she could make into a new book. She located the River Queen, a sturdy, grime-ridden boat dry-docked near La Crosse, Wisc., and struck a deal with its hard-of-hearing captain, Jerry. Together with the ship’s mechanic Tom and his beloved little black dog (who snarled and lunged at Morris), they eventually got it together and took off downstream two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. It was a poignant journey for Morris, who grew up in Chicago, went East for college in the mid-1960s and never looked back. Her father, who died in 2005 at the age of 102, used to sell ladies’ garments at Klein’s Department Store in Hannibal, Mo., Mark Twain’s legendary hometown. Dad later moved to Illinois and got rich creating the first Midwestern malls, but Morris was raised on his river tales. The trip itself was fairly uneventful, though she was sad to see once-great river towns like Dubuque, Muscatine and Hannibal hollowed by suburban malls. With patient Jerry’s help, Morris learned to steer, navigated the river’s system of locks and dams, endured storms, adjusted to crawling river time and mastered tying a seaman’s knot. Her ineptitude is endearing, as is her need for showers and order on board. Along the way, she offers history about the muddy, meandering river and her angry, aphorism-spouting, toupee-wearing father.

Serenely calibrated, pleasant and heartfelt.

Pub Date: April 3, 2007

ISBN: 0-8050-7827-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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