A snooze. There’s no ill intent here, but so important a road deserves a better book.

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ROUTE 66 STILL KICKS

DRIVING AMERICA'S MAIN STREET

An uninspiring grab bag of a journey down the storied highway.

Route 66 is crumbling in spots, even gone to grass and dirt across decommissioned stretches along its path. But it lives on, largely because of Bobby Troup’s musical anthem, given in incomplete form to Nat King Cole and forged in his hands into a pop hit. The best part of Antonson’s (To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West Africa, 2008, etc.) grinding biography is his look at Troup’s song; given the importance of Albuquerque, N.M., as a waypoint along the route, he wonders why it isn’t celebrated in the song. The author travels the length of the highway, stuffing his narrative with as many anecdotes and oddments as he can cram in, with the result that the book has a tight-as-a-tick bloat to it. Some of them do useful work; Antonson does a good job, for instance, of considering the contributions of documentary photographer Dorothea Lange to the making of the Route 66 image in the American mind. But others are there just to be there, it seems, from the painfully obvious (“ ‘Joliet’ Jake Blues, a character portrayed in the 1980 Blues Brothers movie by actor John Belushi, drew his nickname from this town”) to the painfully overstretched (of Mickey Mantle: “many people stopped caring—not unlike the highway he called home”). A moment of confused dialogue concerning whether the author of the line “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” was Jackson Browne or Savoy Brown is emblematic—the answer is easy to look up, utterly unimportant and well-known to anyone who cares about such things.

A snooze. There’s no ill intent here, but so important a road deserves a better book.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-62087-300-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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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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