A limitless world squeezed through a limited scope. Disappointing.

READ REVIEW

GROUNDED

A DOWN TO EARTH JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD

An anemic travelogue from a Slate contributor.

To counteract their ennui, Stevenson and his girlfriend decided to travel the globe without the use of air travel. The conceit begins auspiciously but descends quickly into superficiality. Early on, a thick Atlantic fog enshrouds the cargo freighter on which he’s billeted, leaving the author literally sense-deprived. This is boredom made manifest, but Stevenson deftly sketches a redolent scene of wet fog falling against his face and waves slapping the ship’s hull. One evocative sentence, well-timed and piercing, accomplishes what the book as a whole fails to—awakening an almost physical sense of wonder amid monotony. The majority of the narrative reads like a glorified blog, characterized by thin characterizations, superficial observations and glib conclusions. Stevenson is an undisciplined tour guide, prone to snarky parenthetical jabs and unwilling to treat those he meets as fully formed individuals. English-speaking foreigners speak in a belittling dialect when the author bothers to record their dialogue—he eschews interviews for impressions—and even his girlfriend is underdeveloped. The author recounts a journey through a cartoon—bright, noisy and flat, with one flat image continually replaced by the next one. Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia to Antwerp to Tallinn to Fushiki to Beijing to Hanoi to Bangkok to Singapore to Brisbane to Los Angeles—small wonder that at the book’s conclusion, Stevenson is back where he began, in an apartment lease, back at the same bars and restaurants, stupefied by routine and comfort. He never really left.

A limitless world squeezed through a limited scope. Disappointing.

Pub Date: April 6, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59448-442-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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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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