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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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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