With over 50 years' worth of raw material to plunder and pick through, Kazin unearths pieces of autobiographical and critical prototypes, along with literary gossip, academic kvetching, private rhapsodies, and 20th-century angst. Overlapping with Starting Out in the Thirties (1965), New York Jew (1978), and Writing Was Everything (1995), these journal selections naturally lose out by comparison, being fragmentary and, for Kazin, unpolished. Yet they still have their own allure, offering the freshness of first impressions and (relatively) uncensored honesty and self-examination. Many of the entries on Kazin's intimate life—several failed marriages, feelings of inadequacy, and old-age ailments—read embarrassingly, but the passages on his public, intellectual life, amplified by the 20th- century history he has witnessed, more than make up for any longueurs. From vantages in London, Italy, Amherst, Yaddo, Stanford, and, naturally, New York, Kazin's portraits of five decades are vivid but sometimes hit-and-miss, but his personal portraits are winning throughout, with vibrant cameos of Zero Mostel, Arthur Miller, Robert Frost, Saul Steinberg, Harold Bloom, and Jerzy Kosinski, to name a few described in these populous pages. Perhaps the most touching portrait here is of his friendship in the 1950s with Josephine Herbst, a penniless, ``politically exhausted relic'' of a leftist activist and proletarian novelist, who shows Kazin her indomitable spunk while reliving the 1930s for him. Other friendships prove more complicated over time: Kazin had an intense but increasingly difficult relationship with Hannah Arendt and became estranged from Saul Bellow. His intellectual relationships, chiefly revolving around his love of America, his hatred of ideology, and his independent Jewish identity, are even more complicated. A composite intellectual and literary album, travelogue, commonplace book, and confessional diary from a leading critic still ``writing up things in my notebook as if my peace depended on it.''

Pub Date: May 22, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-019037-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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