An uneven collection in which too many parts read more like a journeyman’s records of where he’s been and what he’s seen...

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POSTSCRIPTS

RETROSPECTIONS ON TIME AND PLACE

A disparate, often disappointing collection of essays on place and time, enlivened by the inclusion of pertinent excerpts from the writings of E.B. White.

Root (English Language and Literature Emeritus/Central Michigan Univ.; Following Isabella: Travels in Colorado Then and Now, 2009, etc.) brings together 13 pieces of nature writing, 11 of which have previously been published in somewhat different form in various literary publications. The author is clearly a great admirer of White, devoting four of his pieces to that author. Unfortunately, his own writing pales in comparison to that of one of the masters of creative nonfiction. Root’s focus on the mundane details of his travels around Great Pond in Maine keeps his work from having the emotional impact of White’s account of returning as a father to a lake he had first known as a son. A similar problem occurs with an essay in which Root quotes liberally from White’s witty rhyming book review of Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm. Root tells of his tour of Malabar Farm State Park in Ohio and provides some history of the place and of its novelist owner’s ideas on farming, but it is White’s review in verse that stays in the mind. Root’s musings on time and place come into their own in Chaco Canyon and in the tides and heavy fogs of Acadia National Park, where the history of the land is preserved in the names of tribes and colonists. The author is even sharper when he writes about Florida, where the absence of clear seasons can delude one into thinking that time has stood still.

An uneven collection in which too many parts read more like a journeyman’s records of where he’s been and what he’s seen than the work of a longtime teacher of the art of literary nonfiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8032-3846-6

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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