A charming, often funny series of remembrances.



A collection of autobiographical stories that charts a man’s meandering search for new experiences and ideas.

Author Kaufman is a committed purveyor of ideas, apparently having inherited from his Polish grandfather an insatiable inventiveness. That love of ideas is both born out of and expressed through a peripatetic wandering: the author traversed the globe, visiting Tel Aviv, New York, Italy, Iran, Germany, Ecuador. The book often reads like a travelogue, providing astute commentary on this or that destination. In one memorable analysis, Kaufman notes that the appeal of New Orleans’ French Quarter stems from its unique fusion of revelry and danger. The prose is fairly straightforward, so the narrative hinges on a life very interestingly lived. Kaufman’s life does not disappoint; the book brims with lines like this: “Growing up in the forties in the then Palestine, on the fringes of the Middle East and North African battles in World War II, was exciting if you were a kid.” The tales occur in patchwork fashion, eschewing a full, linear account of the author’s life, but the upside is each chapter can stand alone. Much of the writing is lighthearted and even comical—one story is written from the perspective of a dog—but it still tackles more serious topics like poverty and the pursuit of artistic fulfillment. In one entry, Kaufman’s family repeatedly pawned and rescued a set of silver candlesticks in response to financial distress. Though enamored of their beauty, he came to resent them for what they ultimately symbolized—his family’s precarious circumstances. In another, he won the admiration of a general in Veracruz for recommending that he supply a reception with portable toilets. Later in the collection, he tenderly describes his newborn granddaughter as that “beautiful, sweet, delicately perfect little thing.” The author of several books, Kaufman (The Precipice Option, 2013) is adept at recounting the universality of the idiosyncratic elements of his life; each vignette expresses a general truth about human nature. For example, his obsessive traveling, and the book as a whole, evokes the restless search for meaning that, to some extent, motivates us all.

A charming, often funny series of remembrances.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0692402771

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Intervale Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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