A surprising, somewhat convincing argument for a group’s and record’s artistic merits.

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Hangin' Tough

Debut author Wallwork puts the 1980s and ’90s boy band’s smash album into critical perspective for this latest installment of the 33 1/3 book series.

It’s not often in publishing that a blockbuster pop album recorded by a boy band gets a somewhat serious reevaluation. The New Kids on the Block and their second album, 1988’s Hangin’ Tough, which yielded five Top 10 hits, including “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” polarized serious rock fans and critics but not the group’s teeny-bopper audience. Making the case for the slick-sounding album’s place in music history seems a considerable undertaking. Yet author Wallwork presents more than enough plausible evidence about the band’s place in pop culture through research and interviews with those who worked with the boys during its heyday. She aims to explain why this album still resonates with her and the band’s mostly female audience (now in their 40s), and she tackles her subject on multiple fronts: the science, particularly the psychology, of why music from people’s teen years sticks with them well into adulthood; the genius of the band’s creator, Maurice Starr, who was also responsible for its music; and the personalities, talents, and musical influences of the five band members. Wallwork doesn’t attempt here to disguise her admiration for the New Kids; she grew up a fan in Australia and has personally interviewed most of them over the years. Her perspective will make readers appreciate the rags-to-riches story of five white kids from Boston, who were plucked from obscurity by Starr, an ambitious, musically talented African-American songwriter and producer who molded them into a formidable, highly successful act—even though their record company didn’t know what to do with them at first. Starr certainly deserves the credit for making it all possible, but Wallwork posits that the boys were talented in their own right, which may explain why they still endure while Starr’s subsequent acts, such as NK5, haven’t reached such success. She also notes that the members’ down-to-earth personas help account for their appeal. In some ways, this book is not so much a band biography or album history as it is a story about fandom. Even elitist rock fans who don’t remember the New Kids fondly will find that Wallwork’s work may crack their hard, cynical shells.

A surprising, somewhat convincing argument for a group’s and record’s artistic merits.

Pub Date: April 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62892-973-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2016

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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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