Smart and fast-paced; one of the better pieces to appear so far in this anniversary year.

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JACK KEROUAC’S AMERICAN JOURNEY

THE REAL-LIFE ODYSSEY OF ON THE ROAD

On the Road, celebrating its 50th birthday, may have been composed in a white heat. But, as Kerouac scholar Maher ably shows in this biography of the book and its author, it took years for that heat to build.

Kerouac’s famed friendship with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs dates to the mid-1940s; later in the decade he learned the word “beat” from Burroughs, who, Maher notes, learned it from writer Herbert Huncke, whom Kerouac called “the greatest storyteller I’ve ever known.” Huncke used the word as a synonym for “poor,” but Kerouac exalted, characteristically, “like sleeping in the subways, like Huncke used to do, and yet being illuminated and having illuminated ideas about apocalypse and all that.” Kerouac’s borrowing would make him, famously, the spokesman for the so-called Beat Generation a decade later, after On the Road was published in 1957. Kerouac’s epochal book, too, Maher chronicles, took shape in the late 1940s, when depressive Kerouac (“the experience of life is a regular series of deflections that finally results in a circle of despair”) and madcap generational bad influence Neal Cassady tore around the country on a few epic amphetamine- and beer-fueled car trips, visiting such places as Oakland, with its “most interesting skid row in America,” and Denver, where poor hive-beset polyamorous Cassady kept multiple households. The movement was constant, Cassady covering, as Maher carefully records, “4,943 miles across the country” in a single week and Kerouac’s logging more than 8,000 miles by thumb, rail and other suitably apocalyptic hobo contrivances. Publisher Robert Giroux began to court Kerouac as a prospective author in the late 1940s and publish him in 1950 as well, but, as Maher writes, “the next seven years would test [Kerouac’s] endurance as a writer harshly,” finally yielding his breakthrough book.

Smart and fast-paced; one of the better pieces to appear so far in this anniversary year.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-56025-991-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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