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Fall 2002
Vol. 65, No. 1

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A Final Word on Writing

Forget split infinitives and those nagging and forever dangling modifiers, let's talk about the politics of writing.

In Christopher Lasch's Plain Style: A Guide to Written English (2002), published posthumously by the University of Pennsylvania Press, the ever political, ever wry social critic turns his attention to the art and power of effective writing. It's William Strunk and E. B. White's The Elements of Style cranked up a notch.

The author of such notable works as The Culture of Narcissism and The New Radicalism in America, the late Don Alonzo Watson Professor of History wrote this how-to guide for students at the University. Mixing social commentary, humor, and insightful advice, the guide became a University standard for students and professors alike.

"Plain Style is unique in that it serves a dual role," says the book's editor Stewart Weaver, professor of history and a colleague and friend of Lasch. "Useful and instructive as a guide to composition, the book also is an unexpected and revealing addition to Lasch's body of work.

"I've used the text for many years in classes and have found students respond to the lively and refreshing perspective Lasch offers," says Weaver, who also provides an introduction to the book. "It's shot through with his political
personality and witty humor."

Beyond essay and far beyond reference, Plain Style parses writing to its elemental form and suggests that when delivered with clarity, honesty, and directness, writing is a democratic weapon. As practical as it is lofty, the text offers readers advice on avoiding grammatical and stylistic "sins" that weaken writing and make it bureaucratic.

With Plain Style, Lasch's fans and scholars, and an entire generation of writers to come, have one more opportunity to hear from the sometimes controversial, sometimes enigmatic, always opinionated author.
Jenny Leonard

Become a Recognized Authority in Your Field -In 60 Days or Less, by Robert Bly '79. Alpha Books, 2001.

From Tribes to Nations: The Making of France, 500-1799 and The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution, by Jim Collins '72. Wadsworth Publishing, 2002.

In the new books, the professor of history at Georgetown University explores the social, cultural, and economic history of France from the time of Clovis to Napoleon's coup d'etat.

Cambridge University Press also has published a second edition of Collins's The State in Early Modern France (1995) and a paperback edition of his Classes, Estates, and Order in Early Modern Brittany (1994).

The High Price of Materialism, by Tim Kasser '94 (PhD). MIT Press, 2002.

The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture, by Bakari Kitwana '88, '90 (MA), '90W (MAT). Basic Civitas Books, 2002.

Jean Langlais: The Man and His Music, by Ann Labounsky Steele '61E. Amadeus Press, 2000.

Making Connections: Communication through the Ages, by Charles Meadow '57. Scarecrow Press, 2002.

No Free Lunch: One Man's Journey from Welfare to the American Dream, by Rodney Carroll and Gary Karton '91, with a forward by former President Clinton. One World, 2002.

Race and the Rise of Standard American, by Thomas Bonfiglio '72. Mouton de Gruyter, 2002.

Rat Race Blues: The Musical Life of Gigi Gryce, by Noal Cohen '59 and Michael Fitzgerald. Berkeley Hills Books, 2002.

Chronicles the life of jazz saxophonist Gigi Gryce (1925- 83), a luminary in the hard bop movement.

Rethinking Home: A Case for Writing Local History, by Joseph Amato '70 (PhD). University of California Press, 2002.

Revolutionary Boston, Lexington, and Concord: The Shots Heard 'Round the World (Third Edition), by Joseph Andrews '63M (MD). Commonwealth Editions, 2002.


Canadian Composers Portraits: John Weinzweig. Canadian Music Centre, 2002.
The three-CD set captures the career of Weinzweig '38E (Mas) through performances and a documentary.

Kelly Hall-Tompkins '93E. The violinist's debut CD includes performances of Kodaly, Brahms, and Ravel. Mellon Foundation.

Mountain Days: The John Muir Musical, an original cast recording of performances by the Willows Theatre Company at the John Muir Amphitheater in Martinez, California. The album features Lee Strawn '87E (DMA) as Muir. For more information, visit

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