This biography, a welcome complement to Marguerite Duras's prolific literary career, is compromised by Vircondelet's stylistic copying of his subject's oblique technique. Vircondelet's project is made clear from an epigraph quoting Duras: ``I would like to see someone write about me the way I write. Such a book would include everything at once.'' Much of Duras's work is clearly autobiographical, frequently revisiting the events of an exotic and dynamic life. In various writings she has retold the focal events of her life, most famously of growing up in Indochina, where she took a wealthy Chinese lover at the age of 15 (inspiring The Sea Wall and The Lover). During WW II, she joined the Paris Resistance with her husband (who, in the course of their activities, would be sent to Dachau). Later she joined and fell out with the Communist Party. Vircondelet is best at chronicling the first half of Duras's life and at recounting these charged events in light of her later writings. Throughout her singular career, Duras's literary work and political activities coincided with new movements without truly belonging to them—the New Wave in film (Hiroshima Mon Amour), the nouveau roman in literature, and leftist politics from radical activities in the 1950s to the turmoil of May 1968 and the women's movement. A familiar and controversial public figure in France, Duras receives full partisan support from Vircondelet, though he gives equal time to her critics. The biographer addresses Duras's complicated relationships with her mother and brothers, and her perplexing yet intimate relationship with a much younger homosexual man. However, he always follows Duras's versions of her personal life and thus adds little original interpretation of her character. Vircondelet, who has also written biographies of Huysmans and Pascal, knows Duras's work and reads it well. But he's too close to her. His epigonic biography too often reads like pretentious ghostwriting. (37 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1994

ISBN: 1-56478-065-1

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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