The biography of an ordinary man, a farmer named Archie Clare. Butterworth (Writing and Literature/Morehead State Univ.) starts with a minute description of Archie's day—a circuit he drives in his ancient pickup truck, through a section of sandy farmland on the western edge of North Carolina's coastal plain. There is a drought during the summer of 1986, when much of the book is set, and Archie looks mostly at parched crops: corn, soy beans, tobacco and cotton, all planted on rented land. Archie, in his late 50s, is slowly going broke—slowly, because the endless paperwork that describes modern farming carries him through bad years, with loans and subsidies. On the other hand, debts keep accumulating, with never enough good years to crawl out from under them. Butterworth traces the history of the region, and of Archie's family, all of them farmers. Corn and soy beans were never the best crops here; cotton is no longer profitable. Archie has a tobacco allotment, once an almost magical assurance of prosperity, but now tobacco, tainted as carcinogenic, is running out of time. As the book progresses, with exquisite portraits of Archie's family, the sharecropping neighbors, and the bleak, nearly blown-away town of Wayfare, Archie comes to the unsentimental conclusion that he must find another way to make a living. He tries several things and finally settles on logging in the swamp, which is dangerous but pays well; slowly, the mountain of debt dissolves. Archie is a hardscrabbling, Camel-smoking, admirable rural male, and Butterworth clearly admires him for his determination, his solidity, and his adaptability. Archie is also, in Butterworth's view, an endangered species, and through the almost minimalist accretion of detail here we feel the heat on the highway and hear the dry corn rustle, and mourn the loss of a way of life. A fine and moving work.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-945575-78-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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