THE MORAL COMPASS

STORIES FOR A LIFE'S JOURNEY

No moral ambiguities in another sweeping potpourri from the compiler of the 1993 bestselling Book of Virtues. From Disney's Pocahontas and its messages about greed and environmentalism to ironic Sufi parables of men more foolish than donkeys, every fairy tale has a moral. Some are more subtle than others. There's nothing subtle about the messages in this new assemblage of fables, inspirational biographies, poems, letters, and essays from the former secretary of education, presently an eloquent spokesman for traditional values. The stories are selected to offer children and young people ``unequivocal, reliable standards of right and wrong.'' This volume is organized according to life's passages, from earliest childhoodwith tales about how even the smallest children can learn to value obedience, family loyalty, and self-sacrificethrough adolescence, young adulthood, marriage, ``citizenship and leadership,'' and old age. For much of the material, Bennett foraged in turn-of-the-century schoolbooks. But there are also excerpts from such writers as Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, and even Raymond Carver and inspiring letters from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, and George Washingtonthe last a general order against the use of profanity. From Native Americans, Africa, China, Scandinavia, Greek and Roman myth, and the Bible come tales of kings and princesses, saints and social workers, and poor people who profit spirituallyand often materiallyby working hard and helping others. No one can quarrel with hard work and family loyalty as moral lodestones, but in a world where, for instance, hard work often pays off with a pink slip and family loyalty gives us a Susan Smith, the needle of the moral compass sometimes begins to swing wildly. Nevertheless, a colorful patchwork of pieces that are irresistible for bedtime reading aloud and as spurs to family discussions about whether, in the name of compassion, your offspring should bring home a naked stranger. (Literary Guild dual main selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80313-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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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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