Makes up for 12 months’ worth of missed magazines in one fell swoop.

READ REVIEW

THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2005

Guest editor Orlean shakes some dust off this valuable 20-year-old series, serving up a tasty sampler of the year’s more ruminative writing.

As series editor Robert Atwan notes in his forward, the essay was considered essentially dead when the first volume appeared in 1985, an assumption vigorously refuted here. Given Orlean’s long association with the New Yorker, it’s hardly surprising that 7 of her 25 selections first appeared there; it’s also more than justified, as the magazine was having a particularly fecund year, and she’s identified the cream of that excellent crop. Pieces from David Remnick’s fiefdom include Catherine Schine’s heartbreaking “Dog Trouble,” about what happens when a dog owner reaches the end of her leash; David Sedaris’s “Old Faithful,” in which a lanced boil becomes a metaphor for togetherness; and Ian Frazier’s zippy ode to forgetfulness, “If Memory Doesn’t Serve.” Harper’s contributes two treasures: Jonathan Lethem’s “Speak, Hoyt-Schermerhorn,” a poignant memory-poem about the Brooklyn subway stop of his childhood that metastasizes into a miniature history of the whole subway system and by extension New York itself; and Kitty Burns Florey’s delightfully geeky “Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog,” which sings the nearly lost delights of diagramming sentences. Many of the pieces concern the authors’ little joys, which are then spun into larger tapestries of linguistic pleasure. This is an almost unseemly happy book, with a few exceptions. In “The Sea of Information” (from the Kenyon Review), Andrea Barrett details research for a historical novel, funded by a fellowship that began in New York City on September 10, 2001. In “Consider the Lobster,” originally published in Gourmet, David Foster Wallace travels to the Maine Lobster Festival and vigorously shakes until all the lies drop right out of the lobster, and ultimately the meat industry. Two essays heavily reference the late Julia Child—and who could have a problem with that?

Makes up for 12 months’ worth of missed magazines in one fell swoop.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-35712-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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