A sobering, lucid memoir about the uncanny, precarious nature of family, masculinity and childhood.

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THE GHOST OF MY FATHER

In Berkun’s (The Year Without Pants, 2013, etc.) new memoir, a broken family in the New York metropolitan area struggles to overcome their limitations.

If there’s a keyword that unlocks Berkun’s portrait of his socially impaired clan, it’s memory. Admittedly, this isn’t an unusual observation for a memoir. Nonetheless, Berkun’s childhood recollection of his mother cleaning out her husband Howard’s car, only to discover “tickets to a movie she’d never seen,” is an affecting image of abandonment and lost innocence. “No one recalls what the movie was,” Berkun writes, “but it’s strangely important to me now.” Throughout this memoir, the 42-year-old author tells of how he’s still haunted by his childhood’s lack of stability or certainty, particularly regarding his parents’ on-again, off-again relationship. Starting at an early age, he says, he was overwhelmed by his father’s imperfections, such as his tendency “to deal privately with his wounds, to put himself first, and to deny and repress the expression of love” toward his wife and children, including the author’s older siblings. Berkun tells of how his father became involved in a second affair at the age of 70, three decades after his initial infidelity, and of how his own sad memories of youth rose again, “like the ghosts of sad creatures that died long ago, haunting me because they want to find peace but can’t.” The author’s prose style is compelling, due in part to his interest in classical mythology and modern popular culture. After explaining that his anger toward his father came from the fact that Howard never made “an attempt to explain himself,” Berkun reminisces about his first exposure to the movie Star Wars (1977) and explores the shared history of the “misunderstood monster” between Darth Vader, Dr. Frankenstein, Greek mythology and Aesop’s fables. As the story of a father who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s, Berkun’s memoir is ideally suited to an audience that’s similarly concerned with the challenges of adulthood and parenthood in the 21st century.

A sobering, lucid memoir about the uncanny, precarious nature of family, masculinity and childhood.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0983873129

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Berkun Media, LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2014

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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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