Graceful in his inappropriateness, tactless only with his readers, Paul as hero provides plenty of good, plain-old inept fun.

READ REVIEW

IN THE MERDE FOR LOVE

More from Englishman Clarke on the cultural collision he underwent upon his move to France.

As in A Year in the Merde (2005), narrator Paul West stands in for the author. Still itchy in his French skin, Paul finds that when he starts to display signs of outrage, his French girlfriend reminds him, “You are English. You must show your phlegm.” But he is slowly becoming Gallified, learning “how to barge in front of someone to nab a Parisian café table.” Paul is trying to start an English-style tea room in Paris, and he describes all the expected bureaucratic travails, but what is on his mind first and foremost is sex. Yes, he knows how to enjoy a sunset and tuck into the food and tip a glass (he’s turned that last into an art form), but his eye is keen on anatomy. Even when looking at his girlfriend’s mother, he observes that “her buttocks were bouncing around in the nightdress like two bald men trying to escape from a tent.” And to his specific amorous interest, he brings a Wodehousean turn of phrase (if ever Wodehouse had talked of sex): “As soon as your fingers so much as brushed against each other’s skin, the other parts of your body start saying they’d like to join in with this skin-brushing business.” One minute he is worried that his girlfriend has altogether too much knowledge about erections, the next he is appreciative of another woman’s eyes, “curacao blue and apparently back-lit.” Though a slave to his libido, Paul is also a comic, canny observer of French rural customs and English business practices alike. Plus ça change, plus ç’est la même chose.

Graceful in his inappropriateness, tactless only with his readers, Paul as hero provides plenty of good, plain-old inept fun.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59691-190-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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