“Do We Need Stories?” “Why Finish Books?” “What’s Wrong with the Nobel?” “Does Money Make Us Write Better?” Readers vexed by...

READ REVIEW

WHERE I'M READING FROM

THE CHANGING WORLD OF BOOKS

Why do books matter?

British novelist, essayist, translator, and critic Parks (Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo, 2013, etc.) considers the current state of writing and reading in short, contemplative literary musings. Organized into four sections—The World Around the Book, The Book in the World, The Writer’s World, and Writing Across Worlds—the essays focus on the challenges writers face in defining their literary boundaries. In the author’s view, creative writing programs teach novelists “how to create a product with universal appeal, something that can float in the world mix, rather than feed into the immediate experience of people in their own culture.” This “standardization and flattening” of narrative reflects students’ anxiety about getting published, which in turn often makes literary fiction predictable and unimaginative. Pressure to market books globally has led, the author believes, to “a slow weakening of the sense of being inside a society with related and competing visions of the world to which writers make their own urgent narrative contributions.” As a teacher and practitioner of translation, Parks devotes many essays to its problems: the struggle to translate unexpected syntax or subtly novel ideas and the relationship between semantic sense and “the acoustic inertia” of a language. Translated texts, he notes, “tend to be cooler, a little less fluid” than their originals. Although translations make up only 3 to 4 percent of novels published in America, English dominates publishing in other countries, leading some European writers to emulate English syntax. Parks refers often to writers he esteems, such as D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Beckett, Peter Stamm, and Henry Green. Jonathan Franzen, who he thinks is overrated, is not among them.

“Do We Need Stories?” “Why Finish Books?” “What’s Wrong with the Nobel?” “Does Money Make Us Write Better?” Readers vexed by such questions will welcome Parks’ thoughtful responses.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59017-884-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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