``What do students need to know about their teachers?'' asks Kaplan (French Literature/Duke; Reproductions of Banality, 1986, etc.—not reviewed): ``How do I tell them who I am, why I read the way I do?'' Here, the author is thinking of the mysteries of her own teacher, Paul de Man—but her memoir, though artful, hasn't the intellectual force or interest of de Man's writing. There's an appealing symmetry to Kaplan's memories: Her father, who died when she was seven, prosecuted Nazi war criminals, and she grew up to confront the ``negationists,'' French intellectuals, such as Maurice Bardäche, who denied the Holocaust. And there are interesting symbols here too: her father fighting bats at their summer home; the young author, age 16, making love in a cemetery; the French language itself offering a refuge, an alternative way of looking at things, a ``home.'' Kaplan enjoyed a sheltered and favored existence: Swiss boarding school; Berkeley, with junior year abroad; Yale in the 70's, where she acquired the right accent, studied elegant writers, and debated which language to speak in and what it meant to be bilingual. The author's primary debts seem to be to men: her father; her French lover; one ``Mr. D.'' (a classmate's wealthy father, who gave her an unforgettable day in Paris); an ``Oxbridge don'' who made her ``happiness...complete'' when he quoted from her book; and de Man- -whose defense, regarding his Nazi associations, she frames in his own terms: that theory shouldn't be confused with life. The major impression Kaplan gives here is of how very interesting life can be to a French professor, especially at a time when French intellectuals dominate academic critical thought— making this enjoyable reading for Francophiles, perhaps, but not for many others.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-226-42418-9

Page Count: 221

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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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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