A Great White North pundit altogether too nice for south of the border.

READ REVIEW

AREA WOMAN BLOWS GASKET

AND OTHER TALES FROM THE DOMESTIC FRONTIER

Canadian journalist Pearson (When She Was Bad, 1997, etc.) offers some mildly amusing, finally innocuous comments on organic foods, daycare and surviving motherhood.

Pearson’s gently satiric essays, many originally published in the National Post, seem to have lost their stringency this far south, where debates on carcinogenic foods, the invasion of privacy by credit departments and the evils of daycare have been swirling around for years. Written in a punchy, bulleted style meant for easy digestion, Pearson’s flippant pieces excoriate the newfangled (American) way of food efficiency in favor of old-fashioned cooking: e.g., microwave popcorn’s “flavor vapors” may cause cancer, so she offers the cheaper kernel-pot method. For Christmas, she eschews annoying electronic toys for her two small children in favor of such home-style devices as a stick, the cat and toilet paper. She has rejected the “hostile little ecosystem of female rivalry, with a smell of sugar-coated bitchiness,” also known as the department-store beauty department, and now frequents a barbershop for a $15 haircut. To mitigate the guilt of dumping children in daycare, Pearson “researched” biographies of some famous people who grew up under surrogate parents (Elizabeth I, Jane Austen) and concludes, “Studies show that thinking of oneself as a semi-divine being can often compensate for decapitated or working mother.” The substantial last section takes place in the village of Tepoztlan, Mexico, where the author holed her family up for six months to find “simplicity,” and instead battled mangy dogs and importunate landlords. Frustrated by the language barrier, she offers some poignant remarks on being a new immigrant (she now sympathizes with New Canadians who bemoan the “Aura of Rank Stupidity” their beginning English conveys) and a very funny anecdote about visiting el dentista where “dolor” becomes “dollars.” Overall, Pearson’s voice is almost engagingly naïve, though her subjects are fairly derivative.

A Great White North pundit altogether too nice for south of the border.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-536-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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