WALKING LIGHT

ESSAYS AND MEMOIRS

Dunn, a poet with eight published collections, turns to the essay with appealing diffidence but without anything especially startling or even lovely to say. The author sticks closely to a kind of folksy revelation (``The Truth: A Memoir'' consists of the personal stories he has embellished over the years, and this essay links up with ``Artifice and Sincerity,'' in which Dunn sets up the straw man of sincerity only to knock it down with the charger of imagination) or else to the memories of his childhood in Queens, lone gentile in a neighborhood of Jewish kids, making his way into individuality by means of basketball and then poetry. Dunn's about as pure a product of the American Workshop style as you can find—and his essays have a homogenized, can-you-believe-that? approach peculiar to the poetry of this style: language at simmer, colors as dull as the Gap's, homiletics dressing up as wisdom (``To know where you are requires imagination. To move well requires skill. Behind both, optimally, should be a sense of history''; ``Lovers are unreliable witnesses, which is why reliability is not always to be desired''). The essays—many first published in AWP, the academic poets' house-journal—are nearly impossible to imagine as having been written by anyone other than a tenured American creative-writing teacher circa 1980's.

Pub Date: May 10, 1993

ISBN: 0-393-03488-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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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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