book of the week – 6.15.21

This week’s book is for my fellow writers. It is probably my all-time favorite book on craft. When I was working on my MFA, one of my advisors* made a margin note in one my essays that read:

Ugh! This sentence! Klinkenborg it!


What the hell? I had no idea what this meant. Was klinkenborg a verb? Was it German? Being the enneagram 5 that I am and, therefore, both unwilling to admit that I don’t know what something means and a deft Googler, I found out soon enough that Klinkenborg is a person. Verlyn Klinkenborg. But his wikipedia page didn’t offer much help. I mean, look at it. It says he writes on rural America and, apparently, tortoises. But then, I scrolled to the bottom and looked at his list of published works. The last one on the list was called Several short sentences about writing.

Several Short Sentences About Writing: Klinkenborg, Verlyn: 9780307279415: Books

This, I figured, likely told me what I needed to know and further internet digging confirmed that Klinkenborg is a fan of concision. I fixed the offending sentence (by making it shorter) and bought the book.

I’ve been reading every book on writing and creativity that I can get my hands on lately and this one still tops them all. Here are three of my favorite quotes.

on “meaning”

“If you love to read — as surely you must — you love being wherever you find yourself in the book you’re reading,
Happy to be in the presence of every sentence as it passes by,
Not biding your time until the meaning comes along.
Writing isn’t a conveyer belt being the read to “the point” at the end of the piece, where the meaning will be revealed.
Good writing is significant everywhere,
Delightful everywhere.”

on metaphors

“A true metaphor is a swift and violent twisting of language,
A renaming of the already named.
It’s meant to expire in a sudden flash of light
and to reveal — in that burst of illumination —
A correspondence that must be literally accurate.
Any give in the metaphor, any indeterminacy,
And it becomes a cloud of smoke, not a flash of light.
Like any rhetorical device, the less you use it, the more effective it is.”

on self-authorization

“You were almost never asked to notice or observe, witness or testify.
You were being taught to manage the evidence gathered from other authorities
Instead of cultivating your own. . .

Who’s going to give you the authority to feel that what you notice is important?
It will have to be you.”


most recent book of the week
and the one before that

currently reading

Stranger Faces by Namwali Serpell
Minor Feelings by Carol Park Hong
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

just finished

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib
Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta
Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

As always, if you’ve read a good book lately, drop it in the comments or send me a message.