An information-packed reference for writers and researchers, and an addictive, thought-provoking browse for ordinary mortals.

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LAST WORDS OF NOTABLE PEOPLE

FINAL WORDS OF MORE THAN 3500 NOTEWORTHY PEOPLE THROUGHOUT HISTORY

The lives aren’t always notable but the deaths are eminently quotable in this engrossing dictionary of final soliloquies.

Yes, Nathan Hale did say, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” (though he apparently cribbed the line from a Cato biography). And, no, Oscar Wilde did not die spouting witticisms about the wallpaper; in one of history’s great anti-climaxes, he expired with an inarticulate gurgle. These are among the intriguing and error-evading factoids that librarians, writers and editors will glean in this well-organized, meticulously researched reference tome. In each alphabetically ordered article, Brahms (Notable Last Facts, 2005) includes an engaging biographical snippet complete with circumstances of death, lists every attested version of the subject’s last spoken and written thoughts (with full source citations) and politely tags apocryphal quotations as “doubtful.” The more than 3,500 entries run the gamut, from Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and Elijah to the lowliest of condemned wise-acres. (“I am sorry for the mistake, but this is the first time I’ve been beheaded,” cracks British miscreant Alexander Blackwell after misaligning his head on the block.) In between there are valedictories from statesmen and geniuses, a generous helping of wounded Civil War soldiers’ dying visions—the most poetic is Stonewall Jackson’s “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees”—and many pious, long-winded last gasps of medieval saints and kings. The book rewards the casual reader as much as the professional fact-finder or trivia junkie. Death in all its guises—peaceful, agonizing, tiresome (“I’m bored with it all,” sighs Winston Churchill)—is vividly sketched. Lives are encapsulated: Chekhov departs with the quintessentially Chekhovian “I haven’t drunk champagne for a long time;” Tallulah Bankhead’s “Codeine…bourbon,” sums up quite pithily. And the great existential questions are addressed—never more profoundly than when jazzman Glenn Miller, boarding a doomed flight, wonders, “Where the hell are the parachutes?”

An information-packed reference for writers and researchers, and an addictive, thought-provoking browse for ordinary mortals.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0976532521

Page Count: 680

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

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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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