A dazzling account of America’s most archetypal odyssey, with much social history slyly and wryly inserted.

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CROSS COUNTRY

FIFTEEN YEARS AND 90,000 MILES ON THE ROADS AND INTERSTATES OF AMERICA WITH LEWIS AND CLARK, A LOT OF BAD MOTELS, A MOVING VAN, EMILY POST, JACK KEROUAC, MY WIFE, MY MOTHER-IN-LAW, TWO KIDS, AND ENOUGH COFFEE TO KILL AN ELEPHANT

Rollicking, ironic chronicle of a family car trip from Oregon to New York, interlaced with stories about previous trips, Lewis and Clark, Jack Kerouac, varieties of coffee lids, and . . . well, see the subtitle.

Sullivan, who seems to specialize in quirky, uncategorize-able subjects (Rats, 2004, etc.), takes us on a journey that’s sentimental but also literate, literary, amusing, informative, wicked, self-deprecating and deeply entertaining. Beginning with the observation that the so-called “real America” does not necessarily appear only along the blue highways, he restricts himself (mostly) to the interstates, whose history he relates along the way. He details his preparations (he used AAA TripTiks), the stops he made (he golfed in Montana and examined Geese in Flight, a huge roadside sculpture in North Dakota), the thoughts he had, the interactions with his wife, son and daughter. The text is intentionally and effectively digressive as the author takes myriad detours. One notable example: Sullivan gives us a full account of a previous, horrible cross-country trip in a rented moving van—it misbehaved, then broke down—but he thin-slices the story and inserts pieces of it throughout the narrative. In similar fashion, we also learn about the history of cross-country highways, motels, fast food (Sullivan seems especially interested in the Kum & Go chain), service stations that no longer offer service, the Cannonball Run, the varieties of roadside coffee. We hear about the genesis of guidebooks and how FDR helped design a portion of the Taconic Parkway. We ride along for a bit with Emily Post, who wrote a book about cross-country travel in 1916; we learn that approximately 1.5 million deer are hit by cars each year. Sullivan occasionally offers photocopies of his amusing diary pages and crude but evocative drawings.

A dazzling account of America’s most archetypal odyssey, with much social history slyly and wryly inserted.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58234-527-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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