A compelling read, swamped in the end by the new wave of ’80s rock.

READ REVIEW

RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN

POSTPUNK 1978-1984

The history of postpunk rock gets a microscopic examination by a keen-eyed English observer.

British critic Reynolds, who picked apart the development of house music, techno and the U.K. rave scene in Generation Ecstasy (1998), applies his methodology to the multitude of styles and sounds collectively known as “postpunk.” The rubric is somewhat misleading, since several of the significant bands Reynolds writes about—Pere Ubu, Devo, Talking Heads—either predated or worked concurrently with the punk explosion of the mid- and late-’70s. But Reynolds’s concern is not with chronology but with sensibility—the first half of his book addresses revolutionary bands whose art school–derived musical eclecticism ran contrary to the orthodoxy of conventional punk. He compellingly explores the breakaway sounds and styles of acts as diverse as Public Image Ltd. (the postpunk unit fronted by the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon), Gang of Four, Joy Division and the Pop Group. His smart, densely researched accounts of these bands and their scenes are sometimes marred by a weakness for artists whose intellectual rigor outweighed their musical worth. Sadly, this work is really two books in one, and Reynolds utterly loses his thread, and his head, when he abandons the more challenging postpunk sounds of the era to address the style-driven rise of new pop and synth-pop. Wearing his national chauvinism on his sleeve, he makes a slim connection between the pathfinding efforts of postpunk visionaries and the selling-out/buying-in ethos of such commercial acts as Gary Numan, the Human League and ABC, many of whom benefited from the early-’80s explosion of MTV. The latter half of Reynolds’s book suffers from a lack of focus, excessive Anglophilia and the strain of justifying the ascent of some decidedly lesser talents. Readers who savor the first 200 pages will likely continue patiently through its wearying finale.

A compelling read, swamped in the end by the new wave of ’80s rock.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-14-303672-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more