The essays on art and artists are distinctive and interesting; everything else is pretty generic.

READ REVIEW

BAMBOO

ESSAYS AND CRITICISMS

Essays and reviews by Whitbread Award–winning Boyd (Restless, 2006, etc.) showcase an itinerant sensibility and imagination.

The British author certainly covers a lot of territory in this bulky collection covering 25 years and “seven broad subjects: Life, Literature, Art, Africa, Film, Television and People and Places.” Regrettably, he frequently skims the surface of these subjects and appears uninterested in avoiding either clichés or redundancy. But some gems shine from the sludge. Under the heading “Life,” we find drearily predictable details about childhood years in Africa and boarding-school ordeals, as well as the first use of an annoying A-to-Z format Boyd unaccountably favors. But we also find a lively account of “The Eleven-Year War” between the author and a borderline-unscrupulous publisher. Moving on to “Literature,” Boyd deflates reputations he considers undeserved (Muriel Spark, Richard Yates) and applauds such favorites as William Golding, W.H. Auden and Evelyn Waugh (he’s written about Waugh incessantly and, often enough, incisively). The quality ranges from a banal essay on “The Short Story” to a trenchant appreciation of Dickens’s underrated comic masterpiece Martin Chuzzlewit. “Art,” the most interesting section, offers informative examinations of once-famous British painter Graham Sutherland and French masters Braque and Monet, as well as a nifty report on the farcical “Nat Tate” hoax perpetrated by Boyd himself. “Film and Television” gathers ho-hum celebrity profiles and reviews, yet Boyd sparkles in a knowledgeable assessment of the biopic Basquiat, whose eponymous subject seems to him “a sort of latter-day, low grade, Manhattan Faust.”

The essays on art and artists are distinctive and interesting; everything else is pretty generic.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59691-441-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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