These enduring questions infuse this erudite, elegantly written history with passion and urgency.

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THE LIVES OF THE NOVEL

A HISTORY

Imagined lives and moral ideals are central themes in this revisionist history of the novel.

Pavel (French, Comparative Literature, and Social Thought/Univ. of Chicago; The Spell of Language: Poststructuralism and Speculation, 2001, etc.) traces the development of the novel from ancient Greece to the mid-20th century, with a swift glance at contemporary fiction—an ambitious project for barely 300 pages. Unlike historians who believe the novel progressed in a linear trajectory from its origins in the 17th century, Pavel sees it as an organic form with ancient roots, in which patterns emerge, disappear, recur and evolve. His title has a double meaning: “Lives” refers both to the vitality and variety of the genre and to the lives of fictional characters. Examining a generous selection of mostly Western European and British writers, Pavel identifies a tension between what he calls idealist narratives, in which virtuous characters behave admirably, and anti-idealist narratives, which censure or mock human behavior and feature rogues, tricksters or villains. Within these two types of narratives, the author points out three personality types: “strong souls, sensitive hearts, or enigmatic psyches.” Strong souls, guided by providence, battle adversity to live up to ideals of piety, valor and love. Sensitive hearts, often isolated from their community, find their moral compass within themselves. Enigmatic psyches struggle, and sometimes fail, to understand their own desires and emotions. Pavel marshals evidence from works that he considers the finest examples of fiction from such writers as Heliodorus, Cervantes, Balzac, Defoe, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Fielding and Flaubert. Women writers and Americans make only brief appearances. Despite its Eurocentric focus, Pavel’s study raises questions that can enrich readings of a wide range of fiction: What does it mean to live a virtuous life? How can humans achieve justice? What is an individual’s responsibility to the community? To what extent is self-knowledge possible?

These enduring questions infuse this erudite, elegantly written history with passion and urgency.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-691-12189-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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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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