Morris is a blatant body-watcher, entranced by the human form in all its naked-apeness. He profits from his studies by producing pop works that combine some fact, some crack-fact, and a lot of what used to be called "pious pornography." Because he is a clever writer, because he writes about human behavior, and because he is not at all unhappy being found out on a limb, he commands and gets attention. Thus, Bodywatching, a brow-to-toe study of human parts and appendages, their uses and abuses in cultures now and then. A lot of this is tim, a lot borrowed from his previous, less opinionated study of human gestures (Manwatching). We learn about the head roils, the brow knits, the earlobe touches which come with universal or particular meanings. Touch an earlobe as you face a man in Italy, we are told, and it will be interpreted as an accusation of effeminacy—the guy should be wearing an earring. In Portugal, the same gesture means something delicious, from girls to food. Then there are the historical bits. Morris describes exactly how the feet of well-born Chinese girls were bound and how the resulting size and shape, called the Golden Venus, took on erotic meaning. His discussion of spittle is interesting, too. The association of saliva with the soul meant that spittle could be a reverential offering to the gods. Later, spitting was used to ward off the Evil Eye and generalized as an opprobrious gesture toward anyone undesirable. But beware. Some origins and explanations smack of Morris Just-So stories: that breasts are substitute buttocks, for example, or that man may have gone through an aquatic phase (one explanation for our protuberant noses). Even the anatomical/medical facts aren't always right. Not all head or chin hair would grow to record lengths if never cut. And the principal cause of tooth decay is not the bacteria named, but a certain streptococcal species. If the examples chosen suggest interesting topics but caveat emptor, fine. In addition, most of the body parts described here have sexual connotations (e.g., breasts, buttocks, legs, mouths), and here Morris the Macho reigns supreme: he is much more focused on female anatomy and interpretations, playing hard on the theme of women as submissive, helpless, virginal and nurturing than on his heap-big male hunter and protector. So expect many women to react with arms akimbo, if not chin stuck out. For the rest, keep your eyes wide open and be prepared to smile, frown, and hardly ever yawn.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1985

ISBN: 0586202749

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1985

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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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