The sky burial is the ancient Tibetan ceremony in which a corpse, hacked to pieces, is left on a mountainside to be eaten by vultures. It's also Kerr's metaphor for Tibet's plundering by China, which—as detailed in this adventure story with teeth—he saw firsthand when his lark of a Himalayan mountain-climbing spree turned unexpectedly bloody. In 1987, the author, a young physician, traveled with his old Dartmouth pal John Ackerly, a lawyer, to Tibet by way of China in order to ``climb as high as we could on the Tibetan side of Everest.'' Despite a few ominous foreshadowings—the ``thunder'' they heard upon first glimpsing Lhasa's Potola Palace, ancestral home of the Dalai Lamas, turned out to be Chinese artillery—the pair's early days in Tibet (and the first third of this account) were devoted to adventure, as they tackled Everest in madcap style, wearing sneakers but making it all the way up to Camp Three (of Six) despite nasty brushes with altitude sickness. But back in the streets of Lhasa—streets dirtied by raw sewage and prowled by mongrel dogs (whom the Tibetans believe to be reincarnated monks- gone-astray)—the adventure turned dangerous when, on October 1, Chinese National Day, Tibetans amassed in protest against the Chinese occupation and were fired upon by Chinese police, who killed several. Swept up, Kerr threw stones at cops, then went into hiding, tending wounded Tibetans and collecting stories of Chinese torture and forced sterilization of Tibetans. With Ackerly, he then traveled south to India, where he met with the Dalai Lama, who told him that ``the Chinese are wonderful people. It is their government that makes trouble.'' Kerr's account ends with his 1991 return to Tibet, where he found conditions still ``bleak,'' the Chinese occupation ``having a genocide effect on the Tibetans.'' A potent blend of high adventure and moral polemic, and yet further testimony to the ongoing tragedy of Shangri-La.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-879360-26-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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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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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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