THE BEACON BEST OF 1999

CREATIVE WRITING BY WOMEN AND MEN OF ALL COLORS

paper 0-8070-6221-9 A literary buffet with treats so exquisitely sculpted that Martha Stewart would grimace with envy. Eclecticism is the key word to describe Shange’s (If I Can Cook/You Know You Can, 1998, etc.) editorial selections, yet her eye for variety never overlooks the art of good writing. The short stories include real and timely treasures, such as Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish?,” which probes the fault lines between Chinese- and Irish-American families, and Junot Diaz’s “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” which presents a protagonist looking for love and empathy who comes up empty. The poems of the collection capture lucent insights into the human condition, brief musings on the questions involved in being human. Stand-outs among them are Marilene Phipps’s “pink,” which roars for identity in the narrator’s struggle to hold onto one item—a pink T-shirt—that defines her, and Denise Levertov’s “A New Flower,” which finds hope and regeneration in a wilting sunflower. Essays by such writers as Brenda Miller (“The Date”), Laura Wexler (“Waiting for Amelia”), and Neil Davidson (“Goodbye, Johnnie Walker”) round out the collection with their respective musings on courtship, role models, and life as a recovering alcoholic at the Betty Ford Clinic. Side by side with luminaries (including Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Jamaica Kincaid, Dorothy Allison, Barbara Kingsolver, and Rita Dove) are new and exciting artists whose fame awaits them. The only portion to be skipped is Shange’s regrettable introduction, which piles on platitudes about the ancient human urge to depict. The blend of the familiar with the novel is one among many reason Shange’s collection remains so compelling to the very end.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1999

ISBN: 0-8070-6220-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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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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Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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CALYPSO

In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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