The playwright's latest collection of short, loosely written essays (after The Cabin, 1992) puts his trademark one-upmanship and Chicago machismo on theatrical/literary criticism, reminiscences, and social commentary. Both Mamet's subjects and attitudes will be familiar. Once again, with varying degrees of deliberation, he puts his stamp on stage and screen, men and women, gambling and competition, diners and restaurants, Jewishness and the American cultural mind. His reminiscences are pleasantly sentimental and nostalgic, especially on his theatrical apprenticeship, toiling away at captions for a girlie magazine, and his bygone favorite eatery. His masculine disposition is well represented: ``The Diner'' defines the art of hanging out (and writing) in places called the Idle-Hour and Coffee-Corner, and the Hemingwayesque ``Deer Hunting'' articulates Mamet's own sportsman's experience. For all the other essays' easygoing style, his social criticism by comparison smarts with intractable harshness, Juvenalian vigor, and not a little chutzpah. After castigating Hollywood screenwriting and showbiz nudity, Mamet condemns the same cheap desire for entertainment hidden in Nixon's funeral, the Oklahoma bombing, and Washington's Holocaust Memorial. Like his plays' dialogues, Mamet's essays argue purposively and energetically from an exaggerated viewpoint in a kind of preemptive challenge to his readers' responses. In general, although there are stand-outs among these pieces (which have been published in venues as varied as Playboy, the New York Times Magazine, and the Land's End mail-order catalog), none are quite as good as those in Some Freaks or Writing in Restaurants. Characteristically provocative, amusing, and messy, Mamet's latest collection of essays deliver wit, insight, and truculence in small, mixed doses.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-54340-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet