Subtle, sobering and very smart.

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TEMPTATIONS OF THE WEST

HOW TO BE MODERN IN INDIA, PAKISTAN, TIBET, AND BEYOND

Novelist and New York Review of Books regular Mishra (An End to Suffering, 2004, etc.) blends reportage with travel memoir in a riveting collection of essays about religion, poverty and political jockeying in southern Asia.

Examining the clash between tradition and modernity, the author seeks to understand the seeds and fruits of both Hindu nationalism and radical Islam. Mishra begins his peregrinations in India, where he grew up. Insisting that there’s more to his homeland than intractable tension between Muslims and Hindu nationalists, he zeroes in on the now-sizable middle-class, which wants the same things Americans and Brits want: stability, security and material possessions. By Mishra’s account, even the most ardent Hindu nationalists do not wish, “like the jihadis, to challenge or reject the knowledge and power of the West.” Pakistan, however, seems to him “much further away.” Though he constantly scrutinizes his own prejudices, the author cannot deny that he feels anxious about the Islam that he encounters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Throughout, Mishra slips in lessons for ignorant Westerners, even offering a sympathetic but hardly naïve discussion of Muslim thinker Mohammad Iqbal. And he rejects simplistic analysis: Ruminating on the Taliban’s destruction of giant Buddhist statues, for example, he admits to being silenced by a radical Islamist who asked why Western journalists were so up-in-arms about these statues but didn’t seem to care about the horrible conditions of refugee camps near Peshawar. The book has a few flaws, however. The author pays less attention than he should to gender; women pop up (there are Bollywood starlets, forceful politicians, veiled, anonymous Muslim wives), but only as cameo appearances. Short final chapters on Nepal and Tibet feel tacked on; readers would have had plenty to digest without them.

Subtle, sobering and very smart.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-17321-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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