Strunk and White take it on the chin

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elements-of-style-50th-book-coverwidecThe Elements of Style, the classic writing handbook by E.B. White and William Strunk, Jr., just turned fifty. The New York Times celebrated by posting the opinions of five “experts” on its blog about the book. All of them turn their nose up at the book’s style and substance and so… it’s no surprise the Times‘ coverage unleashed a backlash. Posts have flooded the Times‘ website defending the book’s honor. For comparison’s sake, consider Charles Poore’s review in the Times on June 9, 1959. He gave it a thumbs up. Wrote Poore: “Well, here’s the book. Buy it, study it, enjoy it. It’s as timeless as a book can be in our age of volubility.”


Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →