A riveting, masterfully crafted memoir by essayist and novelist Cooper (A Year of Rhymes, 1993, etc.) that should find a wide readership beyond the gay market. Really a sequence of autobiographical essays, the book mostly concerns how Cooper's experience of being gay has affected him throughout his life. The life in question is superficially ordinary: Cooper grew up middle-class and vaguely Jewish in Los Angeles in the '60s, the only child of a divorce lawyer and a housewife; he went to college and eventually began teaching literature. Although chronologically ordered, the chapters sometimes leap decades to draw thematic connections and reinforce emotional epiphanies. At the end of a chapter about his childhood entitled ``Imitation of Life,'' for instance, Cooper recalls strolling West Hollywood's exuberant gay strip one night in his 25th year at the moment that, unbeknownst to him, his mother died in bed. Capturing perfectly the simultaneous tragedy and thrill of the moment, he concludes with heartbreaking grace: ``The night was warm, impending, alive, as if longing itself were an aspect of the air, like humidity or wind.'' Cooper's tales of youth, particularly one about disposing of a cache of pornography, can be very funny as well as psychologically astute. When he covers common markers of the gay experience, from adolescent crushes and coming out to therapy and the gym, he avoids clichÇs entirely; several splendid passages, such as one about an affair with a stand-up comic who gradually spiraled downward into mental illness, read like tragicomic fiction. Great set pieces abound, as when he and his widower father find themselves equally incapable of open discussion about their romantic lives. And Cooper's account of how AIDS has entered his life is as honest and unsparing as any yet written. Recalling his impressions with what feels like uncanny accuracy, Cooper at once inhabits his memories and reshapes them with detachment. This is exhilarating writing. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 2, 1996

ISBN: 0-395-74539-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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