Riemer, a thoughtful Australian critic and professor (English/Sydney Univ.), turns to autobiography, presenting a literate, considered work with a curious evasion. Born in Budapest in 1936 to well-to-do parents, Riemer arrived in 1946 with mother and father in provincial Sydney, a displaced person with no knowledge of English. That lack, and confusion regarding the manners and mores of the antipodeans surrounding him, promptly landed him in a class for incompetent students, where he started his cultural osmosis into the world down under. His well- crafted narrative, despite the local argot (``the chocko-covered dunny under a superb jacaranda'') and references to writers often best appreciated by the locals, is finally cosmopolitan. A visit to his birthplace 44 years after leaving it acts as a Proustian madeleine that unleashes memories of a half-remembered past and fully prolix ruminations. Child of a secular Jewish family, later confirmed as a communicant of the Church of England, Riemer, in his tale of assimilation, ultimately depicts a human Mîbius strip; there's no inside, no outside, just a continuum. His analyses of Mittel European lifestyle, the meaning of citizenship, a migrant's disorientation, and the effect of memory, true or false, are fine. But one wonders through to the end of the book: What happened during the reign of the Nazis and then the Russians? How did the Riemers survive well enough to revive a subscription to the opera and later to make the first-class voyage to the other side of the globe? (There is a photo of the author's father in military uniform in 1942, but how did he contrive to get into and out of the costume?) The writing about cultural identity couldn't be nicer, but unavoidably one is left with a lingering disquiet because, despite veiled references to a world of brutality left behind, the otherwise frank autobiographer never describes the transcendent facts of his Central European life. (8 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1994

ISBN: 0-207-17398-2

Page Count: 232

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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