Wide-ranging, lucid, and incisive.

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MY GENERATION

COLLECTED NONFICTION

A rich collection by an estimable writer.

In advance of a future collected edition of Styron’s (1925-2006) work, West (English/Pennsylvania State Univ.; Making the Archives Talk, 2012, etc.) has selected 92 pieces—essays, reviews, articles, speeches—including eight previously unpublished, which testify impressively to the power of Styron’s nonfiction. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize for the Confessions of Nat Turner (1968), a National Book Award for Sophie’s Choice (1979), and many other honors, Styron is acclaimed primarily as a novelist, but he contributed regularly to the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and many other venues, with pieces notable for their intelligence, verve, and crystalline prose. Born and raised in Virginia, the grandson of a slave owner, Styron devoted many essays to race, and one of his long essays follows “the stormy career” of his novel about the insurrectionist slave Nat Turner, which incited accusations that he was racist. Styron defined his generation—including writers such as Mailer, Baldwin, Salinger, Joseph Heller, and Walker Percy—as traumatized not only by their war experiences and the deployment of nuclear weapons, but by the chilling intimation of future conflicts. After the Korean War, “the cosmos seemed so unhinged as to be nearly insupportable,” and he, like others, became mistrustful of power, nationalism, and political hawks. More than a quarter of the collection reflects these views: several essays focus on the Holocaust; one hard-hitting essay profiles a “horribly maimed” Vietnam veteran. Styron marvels that Douglas MacArthur’s memoir is “almost totally free of self-doubt.” Several pieces reflect movingly on Styron’s experience with severe clinical depression. His literary debts emerge in elegies for Faulkner and Fitzgerald, Robert Penn Warren and James Baldwin, Peter Matthiessen and Truman Capote.

Wide-ranging, lucid, and incisive.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9705-7

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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CALYPSO

In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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