As precious as a vein of sapphires in Serendip is this collection of new western writing pulled together by the editors of Northern Lights, the literary review where most of these pieces first appeared. It's usually fairly easy to find a few dogs in a collection such as this, but none too easy here. The 44 essays, poems, and memoirs are arranged to play well with one another and to balance bright and dark, pensive and exuberant. Among the highlights: Jim Harrison (``Nesting in Air'') at his stream-of-consciousness best, meditates upon food and rituals, two items that take up plenty of space in his daily thoughts; Gretel Ehrlich, in a series of correspondences to an architect friend, designs her special house: ``part wild, part human, part beast'' (``Letters to an Architect''); Edward Abbey takes a look at the love/hate relationship Americans have with the cowboy (``Something about Mac, Cows, Poker...''), coming down four-square in the hate camp; and Terry Tempest Williams tells of her membership in ``The Clan of the One-Breasted Women,'' a family riddled with breast cancer. But the real fun is in the mesmerizing new names: Jerry McGahan and his tale of a man's quixotic and prescient, if thwarted, land deal (``Waxwing''); Geoff O'Gara on, again, the rituals of nourishment: a whole different approach than Harrison's, though just as entertaining (``America Eats''); and Ellen Meloy exploring one of the finer points of the vernacular landscape: the drive-in (``Passion Pit''), to mention only three of more than 25 relative unknowns. A remarkable gathering, from which you will emerge shaking your head at the amount of sheer pleasure 400 pages can deliver.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-75542-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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