A deeply informed investigation into a radically innovative poet.

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ONE TOSS OF THE DICE

THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF HOW A POEM MADE US MODERN

The creation and influence of an iconic modernist poem.

In 1897, Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) published a 20-page poem in a British magazine, daring in its syntax, typography, and spatial design. “One Toss of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance” was meant to be read across an open double page; large blank spaces separate verses of different lengths; some lines contain a single word. In French and a translation by poet J.D. McClatchy, “One Toss of the Dice” appears in a central section of this volume. Jarring and visually and verbally bold, the poem, argues French scholar Bloch (French/Yale Univ.; A Needle in the Right Hand of God: The Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Making and Meaning of the Bayeux Tapestry, 2006, etc.), “dramatizes the difficulty of making sense of a world in which truth, meaning, and order are no longer given, and are constantly changing.” The difficulty of the poem is amply proven by Bloch’s attempt at explication. Like others among his contemporaries—including Verlaine, Valéry, Baudelaire, Whistler, Manet, Dégas, and Renoir—Mallarmé sought ways to reinvent and invigorate art. In 1866, he experienced a “state of altered consciousness,” from which he felt transformed into a “vessel of truth” that channeled the “spiritual Universe.” Nevertheless, he supported himself and his family by teaching high school English and, for a time, writing the entirety of The Latest Fashion, a ladies’ magazine that celebrated elegance and gracious living. His larger project, however, was “to make life rhyme” by “investing the world with poetry.” He tried, Bloch astutely observes, “to reclaim for poetry what poetry had lost to music” and to visual spectacle. Bloch is strongest on Mallarmé’s effervescent artistic context and his centrality to a protean group of artists and writers who frequented his evening salons. He is less persuasive, though, in defending the extravagant claim that Mallarmé’s poem “blazed” the way to modernist movements in art, music, literature, science, and technology.

A deeply informed investigation into a radically innovative poet.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-87140-663-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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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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