ITALIAN NEIGHBORS

Parks, a lively English novelist (Goodness, 1991, etc.), plunges us into the passionate but genial world of his Italian neighbors on the Via Colombare in a village south of Verona. Be warned: to enjoy Peter Mayle's books on Provence, you need never have been there, while Parks draws you so intimately into life with his bubbling but blinkered and edgy Italians that some hands-on experience with Italy would help for full enjoyment of his pages. Parks and his pregnant wife, Rita, in minor peril from their first day, enter their new apartment and are attacked by a shouting madwoman who claims that the apartment was built for her by its late tenant. The Veronese summer stifles life until the first midnight breeze (which carries mosquitos with it into the bedroom), and the hunting dog Vega—kept ever outdoors in the backyard—howls and scrabbles the whole night through. Every night. Parks describes life at the pasticcerça and what drinks one may drink during various hours of the day without being sneered at as a village idiot. On the Via Colombare, peasant life meets urban, and one's gardening smarts are open to deep derision or mild approval. Buildings must be earthquake-proof, with ceramic-on-concrete floors that carry the sound of a dropped coin or a toilet flush in the night like an act of terrorism ringing everywhere. So it goes—and, after ten years, Parks is still there. Always zestful, sometimes gripping—but perhaps mostly for those who remember winter chestnuts toasting over a coal brazier. Much verve.

Pub Date: July 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8021-1531-4

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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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