Playfulness and gravity mix with quotations and creation in this mélange of styles, tones, and textures.


A veteran novelist and teacher of creative writing offers a salmagundi of ideas for the latest volume in the publisher's “Why x Matters” series.

The author of numerous novels and works of nonfiction, Delbanco (Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays, 2017, etc.), who has taught at Williams College, the University of Michigan, Columbia, and the University of Iowa, among others, returns with a series of diverse arguments to support the title. He begins with a section about teachers who influenced him (both on and off the page), focusing on John Updike, John Gardner, and James Baldwin, and he later notes the popular decline of the Johns and the rise of Baldwin. Delbanco then examines five texts that, he argues, have been enduring influences on “our daily behavior,” including The Communist Manifesto, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and he explores the concepts of originality, plagiarism, and imitation. Among the most original writers, he writes, are Flannery O’Connor and Virginia Woolf. Throughout, Delbanco offers comments about the history of writing and why it is so significant, and he laments the decline of truth in language (Donald Trump receives stern words). Interwoven into the narrative are playful and instructive moments for readers, and the author makes frequent use of famous quotations to support his arguments. In fact, the text is chockablock with quotations—some identified, some not (among the latter, “world enough and time” from Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”). Delbanco has a lot to say about teaching and offers some long—sometimes overlong—sequences about a writing seminar (with lengthy offerings by students) and eight pages devoted to the reproduction of a course syllabus he used for many years with his creative writing students.

Playfulness and gravity mix with quotations and creation in this mélange of styles, tones, and textures.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-24597-4

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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