A STANISLAW LEM READER

Contrary to what the title suggests, this is not so much a sampler of Lem's writings as an introduction to and overview of the Polish writer's work. Swirski, a lecturer at McGill University (Canada), opens with an essay summarizing Lem's career and the major themes of his writings. Then comes a long 1992 interview with Lem, ``Reflections on Literature, Philosophy and Science.'' Lem contributes a retrospective essay primarily devoted to examining the accuracy of his 1964 book, Summa Technologiae, an essay in futurology in which he forecast (among other things) computer virtual reality. Another interview from 1994 consists of Lem's written responses to various broad questions on his thought and writings. The overall effect is to give an excellent, if very condensed, view of Lem's special concerns, particularly on the relationships between fiction and the real world. He comments in detail, for instance, on several writers who have attempted to portray Poland during the Nazi occupation, finding most to have missed the mark (Jerzy Kosinski in The Painted Bird overplays the peasants' sexual promiscuity, for instance). His observations on the ephemeral nature of much political satire (from Huxley's Brave New World to the Strugatsky brothers' attacks on Stalinism) draw attention to the rarely examined question of the place of the predictive element in fiction. While he has kept at arm's length from popular science fiction, Lem remains one of the few writers of fiction who is deeply conversant with scientific thought and who makes a point of getting his science right. His interest in philosophy is also genuine and wide-reaching, as numerous comments indicate. Densely written, with something to think about in almost every paragraph, this is probably the best quick introduction to the main currents of the large body of work Lem has produced over the last half-century.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8101-1494-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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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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