Several Shorts Sentences about Writing, Verlyn Klinkenborg, 2012
Klinkenborg, the author of the long running Rural Life column in the NYT, has written a quirky but interesting (to adopt the term used by two of the blurbists, Richard Ford and Tom McGuane) book about writing. He says that it’s all about the sentences, and they should be short, clear, rhythmic, and richly engaging. Continuously ask ‘why is this sentence this way?”, he writes in such a style, but after the first 100 pages, it becomes a bit repetitive and old. Several vivid suggestions emerge, such as noticing as a pinpoint or awareness, attention which requires a cunning passivity, atomizing experience rather than being bound by reality. He suggests tossing out everything you learned in school about writing and focusing on what excites and interests you—reread your notes! His examples of excellent writing at the end of the book include Didion, Liebling, McPhee, Orwell, Guy Davenport, Oates, Auden, Cheever, Rebecca West, McGuane, and Charles Lamb—an excellent supporting cast. His many, many pages of student writings and their errors were overkill. A book of interest to writers and perhaps to readers looking to sharpen their skills, but I like his rural musings much better.