FAMILY SECRETS

ONE WOMAN'S AFFECTIONATE LOOK AT A RELATIVELY PAINFUL SUBJECT

A moving, ribald, and vulnerable take on a family and a life. In Glaser's one-woman show, the Off-Broadway hit Family Secrets, she performs a series of monologues (written with her husband) in which she plays characters based on members of her family. She incorporates many of those pieces into this memoir. The result is a compelling autobiography rendered in two genres; Glaser is funny, painfully raw, and honest in both. She takes on difficult subjects—her bulimia, both her mother's and her grandmother's mental illnesses, her father's emotional distance, her troubled pill-popping adolescence, and uncomfortable physical closeness with male relatives. The performances become a part of her life story as she describes the pain and rewards of assembling them, of putting her life onstage. We also hear about what has been going on behind the scenes—Glaser has a baby and an abortion, her marriage almost falls apart, and her mother has another breakdown. Sometimes the juxtaposition of memoir and performance is confusing; in the memoir, her grandmother is presented as a selfish and miserable woman, while in the performance piece reprinted in the book, she's a likable and complex character who very much resembles Glaser herself. The memoir is not always as strong as the fictionalized monologues. For one thing, it lacks their economy; Glaser's writing can be self-indulgent. Furthermore, the memoir has more New Age spiritual and therapeutic jargon than the performance. Its hostility to mother figures is more open, too, as is a tone of self-pity; in the monologues, these tendencies are overwhelmed by the inherently—indeed extraordinarily—empathic impulse behind the project of physically dressing up as members of her own family. But despite some roughness, this work is affecting and insightful about both family and the artistic process.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-83023-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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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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