Superb: a gift that keeps on giving and a fine introduction to the life and letters of a supposedly (but not really) gray...

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THE 50s

THE STORY OF A DECADE

Following on the previous anthology, The 40s (2014), the editors of the New Yorker continue to mine the magazine’s impossibly rich history.

With the possible exception of Esquire, there has been no general-interest magazine in the history of American journalism more influential, and more packed with talent, than the New Yorker. It’s arguable when the magazine’s heyday took place, but many knowledgeable readers place it in the tenure of William Shawn, “quiet, subtle, secretive, elliptical, and, to some, quite strange,” who succeeded Harold Ross in January 1952 and set to work building his own legacy. This volume contains work by writers who are still influential today—and some who have been all but forgotten. Joseph Mitchell, interest in whom has recently revived, turns up early, in a section called “American Scenes,” reporting from the front lines of the postwar civil rights movement. Dwight McDonald, little known today, turns in a fine portrait of the activist Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Workers, who—the sexist and ageist past being what it is—is described as looking “like an elderly schoolteacher or librarian.” In a similar vein, profiling the emerging movie star Marlon Brando in 1957 at a length unthinkable today, Truman Capote sets off with the odd observation, “Most Japanese girls giggle.” As he shows, Brando sometimes gave them reason to. The portrait is every bit as serious, though, as Lillian Ross’ reportage on the making of the now-classic John Huston film The Red Badge of Courage (1951). Other highlights: a forward-looking piece by Roald Dahl anticipating the wine craze of later decades and a deeply curious short story by John Updike describing in passing the antics of a party-going woman who, “insanely drunk, was throwing herself around as if wanting to break a bone.” Other contributors include A.J. Liebling, James Thurber, Wolcott Gibbs, Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, and Nadine Gordimer.

Superb: a gift that keeps on giving and a fine introduction to the life and letters of a supposedly (but not really) gray decade.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-679-64481-1

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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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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