The author’s deep familiarity with Italian culture informs these intelligent, perceptive essays.

READ REVIEW

A LITERARY TOUR OF ITALY

A prolific novelist, memoirist, literary critic, and translator investigates “Italy’s collective imagination.”

British expat Parks (Life and Work: Writers, Readers, and the Conversations Between Them, 2016, etc.), a resident of Italy for the last 35 years, reflects on the nation’s literature and history in this gathering of insightful essays and reviews. All previously published, the pieces focus on writers (Giacomo Leopardi, Eugenio Montale, Ignazio Silone, and Natalia Ginzburg), a few artists (the modernist divisionists and Mario Sironi, championed by the fascists), and three monumental political figures: revolutionaries Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi and dictator Benito Mussolini. Parks aims “to pin down what it is that makes Italian life so characteristically charming and frustrating—so rich on the one hand yet irretrievably stalled on the other.” Italian identity, he concludes, comes from a sense of belonging to groups such as family, friends, region, church, and political party. He often takes issue, therefore, with biographers who fail “to draw on the disciplines of psychology and anthropology” to examine the personal and historical contexts of their subject’s life. He rescues Garibaldi, Italy’s heroic unifier, from a biographer who refuses to “give an account of the moments in battle when Garibaldi’s decisions did affect the course of history” and “has nothing to say about the passions that moved him.” In an astute preface to an edition of The Prince, Parks portrays Machiavelli as “a worldly man and compulsive womanizer” who was imprisoned and tortured, charged with conspiracy. Forced into isolation, he became “fascinated by the way certain personality traits can mesh positively or negatively with certain sets of historical circumstances.” That is a fascination of Parks’, as well, informing his review of several biographies of Mussolini, all of which, in his estimation, fail to offer “a serious psychological study of this unusual mind.” Several pieces—on Sironi, Moravia, and Curzio Malaparte, for example—provocatively probe the connection of artists and writers to fascism.

The author’s deep familiarity with Italian culture informs these intelligent, perceptive essays.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84688-391-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Alma Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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?

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?

more