TAILS FROM THE BARK SIDE

TRUE STORIES FROM THE FAMILY DOG FILES

Dog trainers Kilcommons and Wilson continue a pattern they established in Good Owners, Great Dogs (not reviewed): a self-professed tactful handling of the charges in their care and a supercilious treatment of the owners. In these pages are found dozens of short stories of dogs with problems: the flatulent Rottweiler; the bored, butt-chomping whippet cross; the submissive poodle whose Howdy Doody grin is mistaken for savagery; dogs mean and reckless and sexually dysfunctional. As Kilcommons and Wilson tell it, the canine troubles are remedied in a nonce—as soon as their jughead owners see the light, that is. There is the mistress who worries that her dog doesn't poop as much as she does, and the dog has three bowel movements daily. Ha, ha. Another woman who feels her dog is oversexed, yet plays with him with her rump in the air. Ho! Each vignette is signed—Kilcommons comes across all superior and disdainful (``People frequently tell us their dogs are dumb. We usually correct them''), Wilson the purveyor of cautionary and morality tales. After a story of abuse, Wilson intones, ``say a prayer for little dogs and children everywhere''; and while out walking her dogs, she outwits an exhibitionist, not by sicking the mutts on him, but by laughing, ``loudly and long, and that laugh was the only long thing in the vicinity.'' What this has to do with dogs is anyone's guess. It may be that the authors are striving for Barbara Woodhouse's gruff and impatient bluntness; unfortunately, their attitude comes across as plain smug. Perhaps Kilcommons and Wilson's work with dogs is magical, though thoughtful trainers will say that's half the equation; the admittedly more troublesome half, their handling of the owners, could use a fair amount of polishing. (b&w photos) (Radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52150-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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