Category Archives: Uncategorized

Blow for grammar sanity from BBC News Katty Kay

In an extraordinary grammatical development, blonde beauty and BBC presenter in Washington Katty Kay spoke the following words quite clearly today when commenting on the fact that Hillary Clinton has managed to breast the finishing tape today and rack up … Continue reading

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Dwight Garner Suggests Jim Harrison Is An Interesting Writer

Here is a fairly convincing write up of the recently departed Jim Harrison showing with excerpts that he was an interesting writer, though the poetry except seems rather prosaic, ending with a rather good anecdote. Note the change in headline … Continue reading

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Reviewer Kakutani Writes As Well About Hope Jahren As Hope Does About Plants, Love and Science

A really good book, well written, in fact superbly written, it is clear, inspired Michiko Kakutani to write as well as the author she is praising.

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Essence of Good Writing is Form, Not Content: Italian Novelist Offers Home Truth

A remarkable excerpt from the Paris Review of Spring 2015 expresses this truth, usually hidden from the media, that words are the essence of good writing, not simply their application to conveying information, however accurately. And certainly not what the … Continue reading

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Borges on Johnson and Boswell: NYRevBooks triumphs again

All the qualities of excellent writing, including simplicity Without a shred of pretension or rivalry, or awe – truth about writers as people Greatness set aside as a consideration, a clear view by an equal The lack of pretension in … Continue reading

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Poet and Vampyre – Andrew McConnell Stott’s masterpiece

Every authoritative sentence of The Poet and the Vampyre intrigues Unpromising subject matter is gold in hands of academic alchemist The Claudio Arrau of biographical writers The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s … Continue reading

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Perfect Travel Piece: Tub Tale by Patricia Marx

Amusing truthteller proves Twain principle, that comics rule in travel reporting She’s beautiful as well, but that isn’t relevant-is it? You can’t write a travel tale – or any first person report – better than Patricia Marx’s Tale of a … Continue reading

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Patronizing the Patronizer: Sehgal Blows Up De Botton

Right or wrong, a neatly puncturing review Today the New York Times Book Review carries a fairly spectacular debunking of Alain De Botton, the graceful thinker who has deconstructed the virtues of and lessons inherent in challenging topics ranging from … Continue reading

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Seduced by Naples – Rachel Donadio’s Perfect Capture

A remarkable piece on the front of the New York Times Travel section today (Dec 15 Sun 2013) shows how to write a masterful introductory description of a city – in this case, Naples, and all its gritty virtues. Perfectly … Continue reading

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Matthew Kassel Attends a Proust Reading

Hard to Nail It, But He Does in Short Transom Item Bedtime Stories Nomadic Proust reading celebrates the centennial of ‘Swann’s Way’ By Matthew Kassel 11/12 7:28pm Ira Glass crawled into a king-size bed in a suite at the Wythe … Continue reading

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Nabokov Shows Joyce How to Do It: Lolita

If you would like to see a long manuscript with annotations explaining all the references which you might otherwise not recognize – in fact, won’t recognize – obtain a copy of The Annotated Lolita from Vintage, edited with preface, introduction … Continue reading

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To those who notice the gap here, Jerome K. Jerome speaks

To those who have noticed a summertime interruption in the output here of fine examples of literate, smart and memorable writing, we can only quote Jerone K. Jerome in explanation: “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and … Continue reading

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James Wolcott Finds the Right Words for French Women

Hits Vocabulary Jackpot in Current Vanity Fair Perfect Paragraph Achieves Impossible Peak Like God, His Genius Creates What Otherwise Would Not Exist If invention is the mother of delight then readers of Vanity Fair’s latest issue – July 2013, just … Continue reading

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Blair on Bergner – Exemplary Appreciation

Elaine Blair Lands on Front Page with Provocative Pen Salutes Bergner’s What Do Women Want? with Full Dress Review Remarks on its Revelations and Limitations are Appetizing, not Substituting It is hard to think of a review in the New … Continue reading

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Advice to Ponder from Anton Chekhov

The man of talent is fastidious, abjures advertisement Elevates the base appetites, works hard Kindness is not enough A letter written by Anton Chekhov at 26 to his older brother Nikolai, 28, advises him on the traits of the man … Continue reading

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Praise For Steak Writ Large: A.A. Gill in Esquire

Wow! If good writing is taking what you want to write, and embroidering it in Baroque fashion, but not gilding the lily, so to speak, but somehow combining both florid flourishes and precise description and expression, without going over the … Continue reading

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Is This The Finest Biography Ever Written?

Secret sauce keeps you reading every line – but what is it? Constance, wife of Wilde, keeps even keel amid ruin Beguiled by infamous passions, Wilde lost his first love Beautifully written, beautifully paced, the new biography of Oscar Wilde’s … Continue reading

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Fierce Pajamas: Sparks of Comic Genius

New Yorker Humor Collection is Exemplary, Mostly Hilarious Gem after Gem in Diadem of Good Writing Proof that Wit Rules, Shallow or Not The New Yorker still manages to print some of the finest journalism in the English speaking world, … Continue reading

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Thinking Well of Sex

Alain de Botton Explains Our Emotions About Sex Exceptional Thinking Is Matched by Exceptional Writing Proves the Two Are One and the Same Don’cha love self help books? They always promise the secret of bringing emotional order out of chaos, … Continue reading

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His antihero Mrs Bridge immortalizes Evan Connell

Author of two classic literary jewels leaves us But Mrs Bridge and Mr Bridge will live forever Sad news today (Fri Jan 11 2013) that Evan Connell, author of two of the greatest small classics of American literature, has died. … Continue reading

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God At Work – Keeping Girl Friend Happy

The inimitable Simon Rich – son of Frank Rich, no less – pulled off a classic a year ago, which deserves to be memorialized. Yes, talking of great things in terms of the trivialities of daily life – is there … Continue reading

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Passing note: Why is ‘oily’ such a favorite for synonyms?

Why is oily such a favorite characterization for someone speaking that it has such a forest of synonyms? Moby Thesaurus oily Synonyms and related words: Pecksniffian, adipose, adulatory, bland, blandishing, blarneying, blubbery, buttery, butyraceous, cajoling, canting, chrismal, chrismatory, complimentary, courtierly, … Continue reading

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Jack Handey – Brief but Brilliant on Alexander the Great, World Conqueror

Just reread this jewel, Alexander the Great, Shouts and Murmurs, New Yorker March 12 2012. Another young genius from Saturday Night Live. How come they are so turgid at SNL, which seems to be nothing but boring satires of TV … Continue reading

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The story of Oog: first laugh-out-loud for the New Yorker

There is much that is highly amusing in the New Yorker, as the volume Fierce Pajamas proves with its selection of humorous pieces that have appeared over the years in America’s finest magazine, which brings a well phrased and well … Continue reading

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George Saunders’ Dream Story

Style and substance achieve peak of accomplishment Semplica-Girls Diaries is sharp, humorous satire Understated comedy more telling than any tragedy Its famous cartoons aside, there is humor elsewhere in the New Yorker, even in the fiction department, where it can … Continue reading

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Frederic Raphael Wrote Diamond Faceted “Glittering Prizes”

1976 novel glitters with his unique genius for loaded remarks Hyperaware Cambridge striver maps group’s life progress Saying much more with very much less In Manhattan sometimes it seems the less you pay the more you get. This is certainly … Continue reading

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A few words from Schopenhauer

Celebrated curmudgeon holds forth on Authorship Part of The Art of Literature in his Complete Essays Is he still up to date and relevant? Yes It took us some time to find out that Schopenhauer’s amusing curmudgeonry is considered pessimistic … Continue reading

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The Editor Who Writes Like an Angel

Yale teacher gracefully edited American Scholar in early 2000s Extraordinary purity of literary illumination A lesson from the Hmong Today we happened to pick up a copy of the American Scholar from Spring 2001, when we were lucky enough to … Continue reading

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New Yorker excels at intelligent, pithy copy

Jul 2 issue reaches peak with McPhee, Finnegan, Lahr, Denby Is there a new editor responsible? Have New Yorker writers found new inspiration with the arrival of some new editor, or is there some other explanation for its current burst … Continue reading

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Critic Lambasts Violinist Charles Siem in Excessive Times Review

Who is Zachary Wolfe to flame a violinist so? Even if true, the language seems dyspeptic Is Wolfe too young/hot to be reasonable? This shattering review of the unfortunate British violinist was a shock to all sensitive Times readers today. … Continue reading

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New Yorker Piece on American as Cuban Revolutionary

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The Observer sports two fine pieces

Very smart and slick – that’s the way the typical Observer piece comes off. There are two in this week edition worth noting… but Alas, they are now buried in the past and I am having trouble even recalling their … Continue reading

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John Lanchaster Writes Perfect Short Story

Expectations, story in current New Yorker, dazzles Brilliant author is steady New Yorker contributor Story will delight all urbans married for decades There is nothing overtly “literary” about the delicious short story in this week’s New Yorker, a straightforward tale … Continue reading

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How to lose friends with bad writing: Dale Carnegie updated

New edition of Dale Carnegie’s little masterpiece is rewritten Result is appalling, as Times scribe notices General trend of German replacing Anglo Saxon? Simplicity and clarity is the sign of good writing, and of a good mind. But the publishers, … Continue reading

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Jesse McKinley’s Tour de Force: Bang For The Buck

Times piece on $1 Stores lively and informative Trivial topic transformed by adjectival commentary If there is a more trivial topic ever assigned by the editors of the New York Times, what you can buy at Dollar Stores to outfit … Continue reading

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Charles Bukowski’s Pulp is Pure Fun

His last book, and perhaps his greatest entertainment, Pulp is a quietly hilarious twist on the detective thrillers of James Hadley Chase, Dashiell Hammett, etc. Each word is a jewel. Don’t let your copy go -you’ll want to savor it … Continue reading

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Hitchens Was Not Kindness Itself

Just how bad was the famous curmudgeon? Kind acts, but hard words socially Luckily, as in public, the wit sweetened the poison Can there be better evidence of just how sour an experience it was below the surface to deal … Continue reading

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John Cheever On Editors

How Cheever reacted when Harold Ross cut off an ending His idea of the best possible editor High jinks at the writer’s workshop If you want to know what kind of editor is best, ask a very prominent writer who … Continue reading

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Short and Perfect: Keret’s “Creative Writing”

New Yorker surprise Christmas present for all Who is Etgar Keret? The polished turn of “Creative Writing” a short story on p67 of the New Yorker January 2 2012 issue, out just before Christmas, deserves celebration of an unrestrained, New … Continue reading

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Observer writer manages worldly with actual feeling

David Saracino balances urban restraint with touch of humanity in sketch of gym adventure Exercises both body and heart, a little Go to Body by Rikers: Getting to Know My Trainer, The Ex- and Future Con -‘I’m going to make … Continue reading

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Department of preciousness, New Yorker style

There was as we recall a satirical takeoff of the New Yorker a decade or two ago, and the sheer ineffable authority the magazine gains from its pose of gentlemanly, raised-monocle distance from its topics can sometimes make its columns … Continue reading

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Purity of the spoken word from Vietnam – or a lie?

A truly remarkable book on Vietnam, Everything We Had by Al Santoli, is a group of interviews with those who served and survived that purposeless mess – subtitle “An Oral History of the Vietnam War By Thirty-Three American Soldiers Who … Continue reading

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Patricia Pearson a comet across literary sky

Well, judging from her lovely Shouts and Murmurs in the New Yorker this week, at least. See HISTORY: THE CUSTOMER REVIEWS Humorists who appear in this delectable column often write prose more perfectly calibrated than any factual piece, but this … Continue reading

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Why are humorous books about incompetence so enjoyable?

The Diary of a Nobody and Three Men in A Boat, along with Scoop, are among the most famous and widely enjoyed books in English literature, even if nobody teaches them in college classes, as far as we know. Actually, … Continue reading

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Sam Menashe’s poetic diamonds

Sam Menashe has died. Poet minimalist, he fashioned jewel-like verse as small as four brief lines, rhyme and sense interlocking like a Chinese box. He lived like a poet, also. Amid a society where poets find refuge and succour in … Continue reading

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Drew Westen pinpoints key human need – tell stories, Obama!

Look at this cliche ridden piece by a psychology professor at Emory for a passable statement of why Presidents (and everybody else in dealing with others) should tell stories, What Happened to Obama?, which appeared on Sunday Aug 7 (that’s yesterday). … Continue reading

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How to write poetry, by a 17th Century Frenchman, via Dryden

Boileau’s lengthy verse rephrased by John Dryden tells tips Are they mostly obvious, or obsolete, or still apt? Maybe you will find this long piece of wisdom worth quoting at friends climbing the mountain of poetic achievement.  Or maybe not. … Continue reading

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Rex Reed writes two perfect bad movie reviews

The one time puff ball reviewer skewers kindly but fatally With perfect poise, he makes No thanks an entertainment in itself Are Super 8 and Trollhunter so bad they’re good? A good bad review is an art, though not bad … Continue reading

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The strange case of Jill Abramson

Today we learn from the front page left bottom that Jill Abramson will replace Bill Keller for unknown reasons immediately at the helm of the Times.  Abramson Named Executive Editor at The Times By Jeremy Peters What could have triggered … Continue reading

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Hitchens on WWI: Mortal Debate

Acute review of To End All Wars points up ghastly human sacrifice General Sir Henry complained his own casualties were too low Why US intervention may have caused turmoil for the rest of the century Christopher Hitchens, himself under a … Continue reading

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“Arthur” Remake Provokes A. O. Scott To Perfection

Times critic skewers movie monster with toreador elegance Apparently snorting coke is not terribly good for the brains of Hollywood executives, judging from their output over the last forty years, and one of the worst symptoms is the rash of … Continue reading

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Paul Rudnick is Hilarious

Shouts and Murmurs in the New Yorker this week features another delicious bit of foolery by Paul Rudnick guying Mahatma Gandhi’s known predilection for using young nymphs as hot water bottles late in life, two at a time, without, we … Continue reading

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Candid Interviews on Divorce

Adam Sternbergh on Dana Adam Shapiro’s “Monogamy” Material NYT Mag Quotes Priceless Divorcee Testimony Used for Movie “To this day I say I’ve only been with six or seven.   And those dumbasses believe it!” The only virtuous purpose of … Continue reading

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Demetri Martin is Perfectly Droll

Try this piece for a good laugh, for its perfect balance in writing tickling foolishness, and its sense of gentle satire so perfect in its kindly tolerance of folly that it puts numberless philosophical angels on the head of a … Continue reading

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Hitchens’ Updated Ten Commandments

Christopher Hitchens is a shining light among authors, column writers and talking heads for expressing himself in correct English free of cliched redundancies, and he is proud of it.   His analytical powers made short order mincemeat out of the … Continue reading

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We are 300 million Serfs

At Media Companies, a Nation of Serfs….YES, Timesman David Carr tells it like it is. On the Web as off it, you make millions by exploiting others, not often by doing the work yourself. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/business/media/14carr.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=david%20carr&st=cse February 13, 2011 Some of … Continue reading

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Mark Twain on War

Twain wrote a story, The War Prayer, in which an aged stranger enters  a church where (quoting Lewis Lapham here, in an essay The Road To Babylon  in Harpers October 2002) the congregation has been listening to a “heroic sermon … Continue reading

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Speck by Speck, Dust Piles Up

<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/garden/10dust.html?_r=1“><b><u>Speck By Speck, Dust Piles Up</b></u></a> by Michael Tortorello in the New York Times, Wednesday February 9, 2011.  Witty and informative, and masterfully swinging to read, on what is a very dusty subject in less artful and cheery hands. … Continue reading

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How to get things done by goofing off

It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. – Jerome K. Jerome. I like work, it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. – Jerome K. Jerome Jerome is … Continue reading

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