Variations on a theme with too little variation; Joan Didion said it all and more memorably.

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GOODBYE TO ALL THAT

WRITERS ON LOVING AND LEAVING NEW YORK

Twenty-seven female authors on their breakups with the Big Apple.

This collection of essays on the theme of leaving New York reads like a manifesto of ambivalence, as the contributors hold forth on the metropolis’s charms and challenges. Unfortunately, the treatment of this theme lapses into monotony, as the observations, both celebratory (the culture, opportunity and excitement) and rueful (the expense, danger and status obsession), are largely uniform across the board. The particulars of the authors’ experiences similarly sound repetitive notes: Sensitive young outsider arrives full of literary ambition and naïve romantic notions about the city only to suffer through a series of tiny, overpriced apartments, humiliating day jobs, romantic misadventures, and senses of dislocation and crushing insignificance. The collection’s title comes from Joan Didion’s landmark essay (not included) on having “stayed too long at the fair,” and this raises the question of whether that famous work examined all that is necessary on the subject. There are standouts, however: Valerie Eagle offers a chilling remembrance of crack addiction, sexual abuse and homelessness, and Meghan Daum’s piece, “My Misspent Youth,” assesses the dangers of romanticizing the New York experience with superior wit and a compelling and original voice. The remainder of the essays—including pieces by Hope Edelman, Maggie Estep, Ann Hood, Cheryl Strayed, Emma Straub, Dani Shapiro and collection editor Sari Botton—while often poetically rendered and emotionally affecting, blend into an undifferentiated stew of bittersweet longing and regret. The writers represented here share so many common stories and feelings about their experiences in New York that perhaps they should have foregone the essays and just formed a support group.

Variations on a theme with too little variation; Joan Didion said it all and more memorably.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58005-494-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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