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Fatter and more complex than Strunk and White, and some of the more technical arguments may make this a tough sell on the...

Yet another how-to book on writing? Indeed, but this is one of the best to come along in many years, a model of intelligent signposting and syntactical comportment.

It’s a strange thing, but many guidebooks on writing are written by people who’ve written only books on how to write. Not so Pinker’s. Though being a linguist, as he is, doesn’t make a writer any more than putting air in an airplane wheel makes a pilot, he’s also got numerous best-selling books (e.g., The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, 2011, etc.) behind him—and even that doesn’t make him an expert, so we’re lucky that, like fellow manual writer Stephen King, he’s blessed with common sense. As a linguist, Pinker inclines to descriptivism but doesn’t rule out prescriptivism entirely. “The primary lifeline between an incoming sentence and a reader’s web of knowledge is the topic,” he writes, carefully separating the different senses of the term “topic” in the realms of linguistics and grammar before discussing such common-sensical things as orderly transitions, logical coordination and pronoun/antecedent agreement. The author insists that any writer must be an “avid” reader, and he takes many of his examples from current literature to support pronouncements such as, “But if the subject matter is unfamiliar and has many parts, and if the writer doesn’t set the reader up by focusing on one of those parts as a fact worth taking seriously, the reader may not know what he should no longer be thinking.” Allowing for the “the reader/he” convention, there’s nothing objectionable to that observation or, indeed, to most of the book, even if Pinker courts anarchy by allowing the distinction between “less” and “fewer” to collapse.

Fatter and more complex than Strunk and White, and some of the more technical arguments may make this a tough sell on the first-year comp front. Still, Pinker’s vade mecum is a worthy addition to any writer’s library.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-02585-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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