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Pedagogy 4.3 (2004) 485-489
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A Dose of Adios
Warning: This book should be used only by inspired, astute teachers who want to dynamite clichéd writing and student apathy.
I began using Gary and Glynis Hoffman's spirited writing book Adios, Strunk and White about ten years ago, when it was titled Writeful, written solo by Gary. Then Glynis added her voice and ideas, and the collaboration on the first edition of Adios turned into a phenomenal text, a should-be-in-every-writer's-toolbox manual that broke boundaries, keeping the best of the old school but discarding outdated, pompous rules that lobotomize creativity, novocaine the imagination, scalpel unique voices, and in general anesthetize writing and teaching. Adios is to average English texts what independent films are to Hollywood clichés. Over the years, I have recommended the book to professional writers—poets, technical writers, novelists, essayists—novice writing groups, high school and college teachers, anyone who writes. All have been grateful for how the book rejuvenated their writing.
Just when I thought the book could not get any better, along comes [End Page 485] the third edition containing not only updated examples—and more of them—but new, exciting material that combines previous techniques and forms. Repeatedly, readers will be startled by the should-be-but-often-aren't-taught writing tools. With three main sections—"Style," "Form," and "Headwork" (critical thinking and research)—and a solid index, Adios is easy to navigate. New and newer, Adios promises and delivers an inspiring edition, a gift to any writer or teacher.
Student writers often arrive in freshman composition classes having been intimidated out of attempting to write long sentences, believing that a long sentence is a run-on error and thinking that the five-paragraph essay reigns supreme in college. Adios busts these assumptions. Writing books often preach sentence variety but sometimes neglect to give students practical methods to achieve that goal. In the "Style" section, the subsections "Telescoping" and "Freighting" (flow) show writers how to correctly craft long sentences while avoiding grammatical snafus ("Hieroglyphics" takes the mystery out of punctuating). "Pause" discusses the technique of short sentences and "Melted-Together Words" (hyphenating to create unique adjectives, something English teachers rarely talk about) teaching dramatic pause to slow down the flow. Students learn what teachers mean when they say, "Your essay doesn't flow."
In addition to step-by-step instructions on how to write these sentences and avoid "kinks," the Hoffmans include a wealth of model sentences, both professional and student (proving that, yes, students can master long sentences). Here are some samples of the scope of the model sentences:
- "Telescoping": Edward Hoagland on suicide in Harper's Magazine; student Adam Ludwin critiquing Moby Dick; Paul G. Hewitt on the beauty of radiating minerals from Conceptual Physics; Gay Talese in Esquire on Muhammad Ali; Loren Eisely on man and spider in The Unexpected Universe.
- "Freighting": Joan Didion from The White Album, on the horrors of migraine; Anthony Bourdain busting the rich and famous and their eccentric food adventures in Kitchen Confidential, a humorous anecdote sure to get the reader's attention; student Christine Allcorn critiquing The Seventh Seal and Ingmar Bergman's "complex concepts of God"; student Gary Liu writing about his globetrotting relatives and finishing with the short sentence that laments, "Here I sit"; Cristina Nehring writing on Eros in the classroom for Harper's Magazine.
The diversity of examples in Adios leaves the reader with the vague feeling of not reading enough. [End Page 486]
Adios—with examples from science journals to food magazines—illustrates that metaphor sparks any writing. Students—and often teachers— mistakenly assume that figurative language should be relegated to fiction and poetry. The "Fusion" section dances with metaphor, playfully laying out easy ways to let the brain frolic and fashion metaphor to use in academic writing. Again, helpful examples clarify:
- "Line-ups": "Clint Eastwood is a tall, chiseled piece of lumber—...