Readers familiar with St. Gall, Poggio, Count Libri, and other such significant figures in the history of manuscripts may...

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THE LIBRARY

A CATALOGUE OF WONDERS

A bright, idiosyncratic tour of a book historian’s collected knowledge about libraries and bibliophilia.

More miscellany than catalog, the book assembles snippets from a wide variety of disciplines into an eclectic history of libraries as cultural, political, aesthetic, literary, mnemonic, and, above all, personal phenomena dedicated to collecting and preserving the written word. Australian book industry historian Kells (Penguin and the Lane Brothers: The Untold Story of a Publishing Revolution, 2015, etc.), an expert on rare books, invokes recognizable figures such as Borges and Tolkien as patron saints of the library, but he also spotlights less familiar libraries and librarians from the dawn of writing to the information age, with thematic interludes for all the strange, obsessive things people have done with books besides reading them. The author leads us through this labyrinthine account by his own associative logic rather than following a systematic design; paragraphs jump from one millennium to another and back again, while lists of names and dates exhilarate and disorient in equal measure, running headlong through the stacks of the world’s great collections. Kells leaves the modern library to other writers to chronicle and analyze, bypassing current and future threats to global archives and ignoring the rise of the hip librarian. In adapting academic subject matter for a mainstream audience, the author risks boring general readers with an accumulation of arcana and irritating scholarly readers by omitting the sources and depth of coverage that characterize a reputable book history. Still, the narrative merits attention for the way it enlivens dense summaries on printing, the book trade, collecting, library design, and bibliography with tales of the disasters, discoveries, and notable book lunatics that populate library lore.

Readers familiar with St. Gall, Poggio, Count Libri, and other such significant figures in the history of manuscripts may look to more specialist accounts, but budding book enthusiasts will find this an engaging bedside read.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-020-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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