Like an acid trip, this social history of the Grateful Dead cum meditation on the ’60s has both moments of startling, epiphanic clarity and meanderings both maundering and meaningful. In fact, a large part is taken up with a history of and rumination on LSD and other psychedelics. The Grateful Dead—then called the Warlocks—got their first break as the house band for Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests in the mid-’60s. The band valued acid for the visions and insights it afforded them. They also found that it helped them to play better together, providing a useful kind of group mind. But their music, with some exceptions, was not prototypically psychedelic. The Dead, guided by their informal leader, Jerry Garcia, embraced a pantheon of American musical styles from jazz to blues and bluegrass. The Dead were never radio favorites; most of their albums sold poorly. They were sustained, instead, by a fanatical, deliberately courted base of “Dead Heads” who often followed the band from city to city, trading tapes of wildly uneven concerts, and who, if really hardcore, also sold tie-in merchandise and drugs in stadium parking lots. Cannily, the Dead avoided many of the political strains of the ’60s. Though they were broadly, even diffusely, countercultural, they also maintained “an aversion to the radical movements of these years that would, in fact, pan into gold when the doors of change began to slam shut.” By the 1980s, the Dead had even achieved a degree of respectability. Like their performances, this book is masterfully erratic, veering from solipsistic digressions to profound analyses of the American counterculture. But it is never dull—even though the Dead are often relegated to the background. Brightman, NBCC Award—winning biographer of Mary McCarthy (and editor of Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1994) shows an extraordinary grasp of her generation’s subtleties. She also suffers from its characteristic narcissism, layering on pages of autobiography that rarely make a relevant contribution. A protracted and strange trip, but with much to glimpse along the way. (30 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-517-59448-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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