SET FREE IN CHINA

SOJOURNS ON THE EDGE

A young journalist-adventurer takes to the road in the time- honored Kerouac tradition. After a limp first chapter in which he pens sticky, self- referential homage to everyone from Merle Haggard to Robert Frost (``About the poetry: I loved the idea of Robert Frost, a farmer- poet whose hands were calloused, who knew things....I didn't feel like I knew jack''), Heller hits his stride recounting a series of wild, often dangerous adventures, usually in the outdoors. He writes of living with a mercenary in Alaska while working in a cannery, of building sea walls on the Olympic Peninsula, of lobstering with a near-maniacal fisherman in Rhode Island, of kayaking the treacherous rivers of the Soviet High Pamirs, and of witnessing the death of a friend in China. Heller is not so much concerned with place as he is with people, and most of his essays have the fine-tuned dramatic timing of quality fiction. His prose is crisp and filled with many quiet yet effective moments, as in his description of logging in Vermont: ``There is a shuddering of air, a rush and crash of limbs, and you stand in the murmuring stillness, saw idling, as full of life as you've ever been.'' Simple yet often powerful, capturing both the loneliness and the romance of the nomadic life.

Pub Date: May 15, 1992

ISBN: 0-930031-53-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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