OH CANADA! OH QUEBEC!

REQUIEM FOR A DIVIDED COUNTRY

Quebec-born Richler (Solomon Gursky Was Here, 1990, etc.) undertakes a backgrounder to that province's independence movement, with several large flashes of illuminating absurdity about the passionate Quebecois. A referendum will be held this October to determine whether Quebec should ask for independence from Canada. The province has already added a raft of debatable laws to its books, such as one that forbids English-language or bilingual commercial signs on Montreal's streets. Today, Richler tells us, wary shopkeepers welcome customers ``in a fail-safe combination of English and French, singing out, `Hi, bonjour.' '' Moreover, zealots who run Montreal's French Catholic school board shocked even separatists ``with a demand that immigrant students who were caught shooting the breeze in English in the schoolyards should be severely punished.'' And so it goes, with even intellectual Francophones as blinkered and narrow-minded as peasants in a Marcel Pagnol comedy. Actually, Richler explains, 40 percent of Canadians are of neither French nor English extraction; they are of Polish, Greek, Ukrainian, and Italian descent, with growing Chinese, Sikh, African, and Central American enclaves, who will soon form a majority of Canada's populace. Richler also laments Canada's ``functional but nondescript'' cities, the demolition of its oldest buildings and their replacement by entrenched ugliness of ``the utmost banality.'' He offers a lively description of the Mohawk Indians' uprising against the incursion of a golf course into their burial grounds—an uprising that forced a mortified Quebec to call in the Canadian army—and he sees independence as diminishing Quebec into ``being a folkloric society. A place that people come from. Ireland without that country's genius or terrible beauty.'' Unlike most of Richler, largely for Canadians; for a look at Canada that's more accessible to those south of the border, try Jan Morris's O Canada (p. 307).

Pub Date: May 20, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-41246-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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