Of interest to Howard’s admirers and students—and anyone with patience for formal concerns, close reading, and “alien...

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PAPER TRAIL

SELECTED PROSE, 1965-2003

Well-crafted essays, forewords, and afterwords on poets and poetry by the critic, translator, editor, and poet.

Howard brings sterling credentials to bear; as he writes in an lecture from 1996, with a mixture of irony and pride: “I am not merely a poet, though I am that, and I am not merely a critic of poetry, though I am that. . . . I address you now as a man who has scrutinized the current product (product!—I use the word with a certain compliant twinge) in extenso for thirty dutifully attentive years.” So he has. But not just the current product: the collection opens with a sparking essay, from 1973, on Emily Dickinson, who was just then being rediscovered and needed her champions in a rhymeless time. Howard’s consideration is highly illuminating, and it well illustrates his magpie technique of turning up glittering oddments: here, for instance, he stops briefly to ponder Dickinson’s evident discomfort with the letter n, “as they have always seemed unfinished M’s,” closing that essay with a modest plea to allow a writer idiosyncrasies and tics that might otherwise bore or provoke us, for these may well “turn out to be that writer’s solution to his own problems of composition and utterance.” Elsewhere the noted translator of Baudelaire and other French writers turns his attention to Francophone literature, and especially on writers who are not much read today, such as Marguerite Yourcenar (Howard’s magpie finding: she irritated Virginia Woolf), Claude Simon, and even the irreplaceable Stendhal. These admiring pieces, for those who care about such things, constitute a welcome antidote to John Miller and Mark Molesky’s wooly anti-French screed Our Oldest Enemy (see below), and in any event they ought to awaken interest in those writers, which would be a grand service to them. Elsewhere still Howard praises then-new poets such as J.D. McClatchy, the writings of Brassaï, the power of storytelling, and kindred matters, giving variety to an altogether satisfactory collection.

Of interest to Howard’s admirers and students—and anyone with patience for formal concerns, close reading, and “alien eloquence.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-374-25885-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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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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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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