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Anyone who already values grammar, arguments about rules or the checkered glories of verbal style, however, is in for a...

America’s most popular language maven preaches 50 zippy sermonettes on grammatical truisms so often misunderstood that even he seems to get them wrong.

“1. No sentence fragments,” begins Safire (No Uncertain Terms, 2003, etc.), establishing the self-contradictory pattern for each of the “fumblerules”—laws of highly variable authority set forth in terms that call attention to the lessons they teach by gleefully breaking them—he’s culled from readers of his weekly “On Language” column for the New York Times Magazine and his own copious and often cantankerous experience. Purists will be happy to learn that Safire takes a zero-tolerance approach to dangling participles (Rule 25); more permissive writers will be relieved to know that he allows split infinitives (Rule 41) and prepositions at the end of sentences (Rule 49) under the proper conditions; editors and schoolteachers will nod in weary sympathy at Rule 33: “Of all the statements about indefinite pronouns, none is useful.” Whether he’s inveighing against subject-verb disagreements (Rule 12) or urging, “Don’t use contractions in formal writing” (Rule 5), Safire is invariably shrewd, witty and provocative. The one constituency likely to be disappointed by his sparklingly matter-of-fact approach to the tired but important rules of writing is readers most in need of grammatical help, for Safire’s ready facetiousness throughout both his fumblerules and his glosses often obscures the difference between the rules he actually endorses (“11. Write all adverbial forms correct”) and mere circumlocutions or canards (“38. One will not have needed the future perfect tense in one’s entire life”). The target audience throughout is writers who already have a pretty good idea how to write and are looking for practical advice about how to mess up.

Anyone who already values grammar, arguments about rules or the checkered glories of verbal style, however, is in for a treat.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-393-32723-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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