There are enough chuckles and guffaws in Morris' autobiography to make it one of the unexpectedly funny books of the year. To be sure, some of the humor—as well as the melodrama—derives from the chimps, bats, pythons, and other fauna who were guests on the television "Zootime" series Morris masterminded midway in his career, or from the animals who were his charges while he was Curator of Mammals at the London Zoo. There are academic foibles and hijinks, too, such as the time Prince Akihito of Japan and entourage squeezed into Morris' lab to catch him beside the one foul-smelling, slime-bottomed aquarium he hadn't had time to clean. After an interminable silence came the inevitable question—to which Morris found himself replying, "In this tank we are maturing the substratum." Clearly Morris enjoys telling a story on himself, and on Lorenz, Tinbergen, and other ethology greats. Between laughs, however, we do get a distinct picture of young Morris, an only child whose father died the year he was sent off to boarding school; a boy early turned on to nature and to art. He painted, dabbling in surrealism, but finally gained a first in zoology and the chance to work under Tinbergen at Oxford (where his future wife was an undergraduate). It is clear that Morris also realized early on that he was torn between academic scholarship and the itch to make broad generalizations before a large popular audience—characteristics which eventually led to the notoriety of The Naked Ape, The Human Zoo, and Intimate Behavior. If nothing else, the autobiography presents Morris in richer perspective. We see the student with the well-trained eye of the naturalist able to conduct field experiments of migrating toads or courting sticklebacks. We see the dedicated animal lover, eager to educate the public about the true ways of animals, and to improve the lot of pets and zoo-dwellers. Overall, Morris emerges as a more likable and sensitive soul than one would imagine in the light of the simplistic hypotheses of his popular works.

Pub Date: July 29, 1980

ISBN: 0553148966

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1980

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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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